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The Impact of Detention on the Health of Asylum Seekers

Keller, Allen S. MD; Ford, Douglas JD; Sachs, Emily BA; Rosenfeld, Barry PhD; Trinh-Shevrin, Chau MS; Meserve, Chris MD; Leviss, Jonathan A. MD; Singer, Elizabeth MD; Smith, Hawthorne PhD; Wilkinson, John MS; Kim, Glen MD; Allden, Kathleen MD; Rockline, Paul JD

Journal of Ambulatory Care Management: October-December 2003 - Volume 26 - Issue 4 - p 383–385
Special Feature: Human Rights Issues

Abstract: Asylum seekers arriving in the United States are often imprisoned for months or years while their asylum claims are processed. Recently, Physicians for Human Rights and the Bellevue/New York University Program for Survivors of Torture released the findings of the first systematic study examining the health of detained asylum seekers. The study found that the mental health of asylum seekers interviewed was extremely poor, including high levels of symptoms for anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder, which worsened the longer individuals were in detention. The study also raises concerns about the manner in which asylum seekers are treated upon arrival in the United States and then while in detention. These findings support assertions that detention has a harmful effect on the health and well-being of asylum seekers. Policies regarding the long-term detention of asylum seekers should be reconsidered.

From the Bellevue/New York University (NYU) Program for Survivors of Torture, New York City, Boston, Mass. (Keller, Trinh-Shevrin, Meserve, Singer, Smith, Sachs, Wilkinson)

The Physicians for Human Rights, Boston, Mass. (Ford, Rocklin)

Fordham University, Boston, Mass. (Rosenfeld)

New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Boston, Mass. (Leviss)

Dartmouth Medical School, Boston, Mass. (Allden)

Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. (Kim)

Corresponding author: Allen S. Keller, MD, Bellevue/New York University (NYU) Program for Survivors of Torture, 462 First Ave, CD 710, New York, NY 10016 (e-mail:

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.