21.1 Researching Country Conditions
To win an application for asylum, the applicant must demonstrate that they have a subjective fear of future persecution and that this fear is objectively reasonable. To accomplish this, the applicant should submit proof that the types of harm they suffered or fear suffering in the future are documented in their country of origin.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials often rely heavily on U.S. State Department reports on human rights conditions in the applicant’s country of origin. Therefore you should always be familiar with the report for your client’s country and generally should submit the report yourself with the country conditions information. These reports can be found at www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/c1470.htm. More often than not these reports will include little or no information about LGBTQ/H issues, so you will have to look elsewhere as well. If, however, there is information about human rights abuses or lack thereof of LGBTQ/H people in the State Department report, this will carry a great deal of weight.
OutRight Action International is an invaluable resource for LGBTQ/H corroborating information. See http://www.outrightinternational.org/.
If a leading human rights organization, such as Human Rights Watch (http://www.hrw.org) or Amnesty International (http://www.amnesty.org) has released a report on LGBTQ/H conditions in the applicant’s country, including the complete report will also be very beneficial to the case.
CIS’s Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate (RAIO) maintains a library of data that may be useful: see https://u95026.eos-intl.net/U95026/OPAC/Index.aspx.
You should also research LGBT media websites online. Many mainstream LGBT media report regularly on international LGBT/H issues. A non-exhaustive list of useful websites is available at Section #36 Important Resources.
Another useful way to find relevant articles for your country conditions packet, is to do a Google or Yahoo search for “international newspapers” and then search for keywords such as “gay” or “homosexual” within newspapers of the applicant’s country.
You can use Google to search most websites even if the website doesn’t have a Google search bar. You do so by going to www.google.com and then entering your search terms followed by “site:[website].” For example, if you want to find search 365gay.com to find out about arrests in Egypt, you could do the following search on the Google website “Egypt arrests site:www.365gay.com”.
21.2 Indexing Country Conditions
There is no magic number of reports and articles which you need to include. Remember, you want to have enough materials that objectively support your client’s fear that an adjudicator will find that fear objectively reasonable. If there is a news report about a particular incident, such as a gay-bashing which led to a person’s death, you should find the article from the most credible source and include it. There’s no need to include five articles about the same incident. You want to be as thorough as possible with country conditions without being needlessly redundant. You should also focus on country conditions within the last five years, and include few (if any) articles that are more than a few years old. If, however, there is a seminal report (such as an Amnesty International report) specifically about LGBTQ/H issues in the applicant’s country of origin, it may be worth including that even if it is outdated. It would be very helpful to also get a letter from the organization that issued the report stating that conditions have not improved since the report.
When you are putting together your country conditions information, your goal is to make the job of the adjudicator as easy as possible. You should arrange the materials in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent news comes first. You should index the materials and attach the originals with exhibit tabs corresponding to the numbered entries in the index. When you index the materials you should either offer a brief summary of the article/report you are attaching or pull out a quotation or two of sections that are especially relevant or helpful to your claim. The purpose of the index is for the adjudicator to be able to quickly digest the content of the country conditions without having to read them all. Additionally, you can use a highlighter pen on the materials themselves to draw the adjudicator’s attention to the most relevant passages. If you do this, make sure you use the highlighter pen on all copies after you’ve finished photocopying, otherwise the yellow just photocopies as grey.
If your applicant is applying based on more than one ground, for example sexual orientation and HIV status, it’s best to index the conditions thematically. That is, put a bold heading such as “Country Conditions for Gay Men” and then summarize and list the gay-related articles/reports in reverse chronological order. Then put another bold heading such as “Country Conditions for Individuals Living with HIV” and then summarize and list the HIV-related articles/reports in reverse chronological order.
Any article that is not written in English must be translated into English and include a certificate of translation. (See Section #20.9 above). Even if only one paragraph of a two-page article is really relevant to your case, the best practice is to translate the entire article since the adjudicator has no way of knowing whether the untranslated portion of the article may contain information which actually undermines the applicant’s claim.
This Manual is intended to provide information to attorneys and accredited representatives. It is not intended as legal advice. Asylum seekers should speak with qualified attorneys before applying.