Asylum Seekers in a Time of Record Forced Global Displacement: the Role of Physicians

  • Katherine C. McKenzie
  • Jon Bauer
  • P. Preston Reynolds
Review Paper


In 2016, over 65 million individuals were displaced from their homes due to human rights abuses, and 262,000 people applied for asylum in the USA. Individuals who have experienced persecution are present in many primary and specialty clinics. A medical forensic evaluation can increase the likelihood of a successful asylum case. This paper reviews the legal framework for asylum and the contribution forensic evaluations can make to this vulnerable population. Physicians without asylum expertise can help these patients by recognizing their legal right to residential protection and referring them to lawyers and physicians with expert skills. Performing forensic examinations of asylum seekers offers physicians the opportunity to collaborate with attorneys, immigration officials, and human rights experts. Clinicians who do this work find it personally and professionally rewarding, especially when they impart their expert knowledge and skills to future clinicians by involving trainees in these evaluations. Physicians who encounter refugees or asylum seekers in their roles as providers or as preceptors should have familiarity with the field of asylum medicine to enhance the comprehensive care they deliver.


immigrant health vulnerable populations global health legal issues human rights 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine C. McKenzie
    • 1
  • Jon Bauer
    • 2
  • P. Preston Reynolds
    • 3
  1. 1.Yale Center for Asylum Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine Yale School of MedicineNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Asylum and Human Rights ClinicUniversity of Connecticut School of LawHartfordUSA
  3. 3.Division of General Medicine, Hospitalist Medicine, Geriatrics and Palliative CareUniversity of Virginia School of MedicineCharlottesvilleUSA

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