Asylum Evaluations—The Physician’s Dilemma

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Eric Stover, Harvey Weinstein
Publication Date
July 1, 2002
Publication Type
Journal Article
Conflict, International Humanitarian Law


In the following paper, Annemiek Richters of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands addresses the dilemmas faced by health professionals who are asked to evaluate and provide supporting documentation for those refugees who seek political asylum in the countries of Europe. It is in the politically charged arena of asylum applications, government regulations, and public policy where bioethics, human rights, and health converge. Despite the 1951 Convention on Refugees, a treaty signed by nations around the world to safeguard the rights of those who are displaced, and other treaties that protect the rights of vulnerable populations, refugee and asylum policies have become increasingly strict in an effort to deter those who would seek safety. This tightening of borders in the countries of the West challenges physicians who find themselves caught between obligations to treat, to advocate, and to challenge policies that make treatment a potentially dangerous proposition. Unfortunately, the World Trade Center attacks have exacerbated the problem by labeling asylees and refugees as potential terrorists and subject to deportation.