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Asylum Deadline Criticized

2010 May 6
by Ben Achtenberg

Rights Advocates Criticize Arbitrary Asylum Deadline

According to Human Rights First, eighty-seven faith-based, human rights, legal services and refugee assistance organizations, as well as many individuals concerned about refugee rights, have called on Congress to pass H.R. 4800, a bill eliminating the current arbitrary one-year filing deadline for asylum applications, which has led to the denial, rejection, or delay of thousands of requests for asylum protection.
…..Under the rule, according to their letter, “Adjudicators have denied exceptions to refugees who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological conditions that occur as a result of trauma, even though these conditions can make it very difficult for refugees to provide a detailed explanation of their past in an asylum application [or] when applicants did not know about asylum or about the filing deadline, or were unable to find affordable legal representation. In all of these cases, the filing deadline has denied asylum protection to legitimate refugees for reasons largely outside of their control and having nothing to do with the merits of their case.”

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Examples cited included a Burmese student who “fled to the United States after being jailed for several years for pro-democracy activities.” He knew no one in the U.S., spoke no English, and did not learn about asylum until several years later. ”The Immigration Judge found the student to be credible and to face a clear probability of persecution. However, the judge held that the student’s extreme isolation…did not constitute an exception to the filing deadline and denied asylum.”
…..According to Human Rights First, one of the signers of the letter, over 79,000 asylum applicants have had their asylum claims rejected, denied or delayed due to the filing deadline, including many of HRF’s own clients. The letter argues that “Unwitting failures to comply with a mere technicality…should not prevent credible refugees from receiving asylum and protection from persecution. …This is the foundation of our asylum system.” Read Human Rights First’s report, Renewing U.S. Commitment to Refugee Protection.

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