Unpacking Pandora's Box: Innovative Techniques for Effectively Counseling Asylum Applicants Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
47 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2007
Each year, innumerable asylum seekers are denied relief in the United States because the asylum officer or immigration judge does not believe the applicant is telling the truth. The asylum applicant is determined not to be credible because his story of persecution lacks sufficient detail and is inconsistent. A victim of severe and often prolonged trauma may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which profoundly affects his ability to tell a consistent and detailed story of past persecution. Thus, an asylum seeker suffering from PTSD as a result of traumatic experiences, desperately in need of a safe haven, may be denied asylum as a direct result of the symptoms of his affliction. Recent changes in immigration law have considerably raised both evidentiary requirements and the standard for obtaining asylum. These changes create an asylum process that poses significant obstacles for asylum seekers and dramatically reduces their chances of being granted asylum.
This article proposes practical methods to use throughout the lawyer-client relationship in order to help an asylum seeker tell a more credible story of past persecution. These counseling techniques may assist an asylum seeker in consistently remembering details of his past persecution which form the basis of his well-founded fear of being returned to his home country. The author incorporates the most recent scientific research on PTSD and its affect on memory in recommending the counseling techniques in this article.
Keywords: asylum, immigration, post-traumatic stress disorder, memory, counseling, interview
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