New Human Rights Reports Available for Asylum Seekers

The United States Department of State has released the 2014 Human Rights Reports. These reports detail human rights practices in countries receiving aid and all United Nations member states. These reports are important because they can often play a significant role in determining whether someone will be granted asylum.

A person may be granted in asylum in the United States if they meet the definition of a “refugee.” The definition of a “refugee” is codified in INA § 101(a)(42)(A) and is based on the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. A “refugee” is:

any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

The applicant bears the burden of proving that they meet the definition of a refugee and must submit evidence of this persecution in their country of origin. Although testimony alone can be sufficient to meet the burden, the Board of Immigration Appeals has stated that an applicant is required to submit “corroborative testimonial and documentary evidence, where available.” Matter of S-A-, 22 I&N Dec. 1328, 1332 (BIA 2000).

In practice, many Immigration Judges give heavy weight to the Department of State’s Human Rights Reports in corroborating someone’s claim of persecution in their country of origin. Although these Reports should not be viewed as conclusive in determining a country’s human rights practice or stance, they are particularly persuasive to judges.

The reports are available here.

AFP PHOTO by Greg Wood