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Abstract

Background: As the world faces the greatest number of displaced persons in history, it is urgent for countries offering refuge and asylum to understand the needs of these vulnerable populations. Asylum seekers face great uncertainty in the US legal system, and female asylum seekers often face additional challenges. The Atlanta Asylum Network (AAN) facilitates access to low or no-cost physical, psychological and gynecological evaluations to enable a fair and complete judicial process. The purpose of this analysis is to assess the presence of various types of violence experienced by a population of female West African asylum seekers, and to make recommendations of how asylum policies can be applied more fairly.

Methods: Qualitative analysis was conducted on 15 narrative affidavits from female West African clients of the AAN. These affidavits serve as a legal record of the persecution the asylum seeker faced in their home country. Based in grounded theory, the analysis consisted of data memoing, coding, and the development of thick descriptions. The analysis outcomes were reviewed to ensure they were grounded in the data, with special attention paid to outliers.

Results: The key themes that emerged throughout analysis centered on experiences of structural violence and interpersonal violence, as well as significant examples of interaction between the two types. There were also clear differences between the experiences of two deductive subgroups: Gender-based and Gender-biased.

Conclusions: In the US asylum process, cases of structural violence tend to be favored over cases of interpersonal violence. However, actual experiences show this is often a false dichotomy. For example, interpersonal violence can become structural when the government fails to protect the victim or punish the perpetrator. Asylum seekers should emphasize experiences of intersectional violence, and asylum law should be more consistently applied through acknowledgement of this complexity and codification in legal guidelines.

Keywords: Asylum, refugee, violence against women, human rights, West Africa, health, Atlanta, qualitative, gender based violence

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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