February 23, 2015
Medical Evidence in Refugee Hearings
As immigration control increases, refugee applicants are often implicitly, if not explicitly, submitted to evaluation of their medical conditions for corroboration of their autobiographical narratives. Medical certificates, for instance, which are drawn up by a doctor or sometimes by a psychologist and that attest to torture or ill-treatment, have become a key piece of evidence in refugee cases.
Recently, I conducted research based out of the University of Oxford in which I observed a number of refugee hearings and interviewed professionals involved in the adjudication of refugee protection. I observed that unlike individuals, the state possesses extensive apparatus of documentation. In the face of endless documentation which can be used to prejudice refugee applicants, medical evidence, if available, accurate and relevant, can be a great equalizer thereby helping to support the legitimacy of a refugee applicant’s claim.
Often times, clients will compartmentalize their medical condition separately from their legal refugee determination proceedings. My research demonstrates that medical reports are a very important form of documentation. Leveraging such documentation can, for instance, support evidence of persecution in one’s country of origin. Where accurate, relevant and well-documented, your medical documentation can assist in substantiating your claim during the refugee determination process.
When clients come to our offices, this evidence is certainly something we explore if it is relevant to the claim. However, it is important for individuals to be mindful of accurately documenting their own medical journey (for instance, by retaining medical records) so that such evidence is available at a later date.
For more information on claiming refugee protection, click here.