Evidence of physical and/or mental health issues in asylum claims

Legal Updates

A photo of a man's hands and arms as he stands looking out over some water

As a result of your experiences that have led you to claim asylum, you may have physical and/or mental health problems. If you wish these physical and/or mental health issues to form part of your asylum claim, you will need to provide evidence of them to the Home Office (and to the courts, later on in an asylum claim).

You may:

  • have marks on your body from torture or other ill-treatment that has contributed to you needing asylum in the UK
  • have pain or other physical symptoms because of what has happened to you
  • difficulty sleeping, or be unable to stop thinking what has happened to you (have upsetting memories, fears of worries)
  • find it difficult to cope day to day because of how you feel

What you should do

If you have physical and/or mental health problems because of what has happened to you – such as the signs/symptoms above – you should tell your lawyer. Your lawyer will need to ask you some questions about how these things relate to your asylum claim so they can help you to explain (in your interview or in a written statement) how these fit into your testimony.

Your lawyer may be able to get a report from a medical expert which can be submitted as evidence in your asylum claim. These are called “medico-legal reports” which document the psychological and/or physical result of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Your lawyer can find medical experts via organisations like Freedom from Torture, the Helen Bamber Foundation and Forrest Medico-Legal Services. There are also medical experts who work independently of organisations.

Getting these reports can take some time, so you should mention it to your lawyer as soon as possible. We know this may be difficult for you – you may wish to think about communicating with your lawyer in writing if you find saying the words difficult, or asking a trusted friend or volunteer to help pass on this information to your lawyer.

You can mention the marks or problems you have in your asylum substantive interview.

Read more about the asylum substantive interview (the “big interview”) in our guide to the asylum process here.

The Home Office guidance on asylum interviews says that the interviewer should:

“accept an offer made by the claimant to see scars only if they are on a visible part of the body, for example the lower arms or legs. If you see the scars, you must note on the interview record where they are on the body and the approximate shape and size. You must also record if you do not consider that it would be appropriate to look at the scars.”

When in your asylum claim this evidence is needed

It’s important to speak to your lawyer about any physical or mental effects or torture/ill-treatment as soon as possible.

Even though there are lots of reasons why it may be very difficult for you to talk about this, the Home Office is less likely to believe these things have happened if you do not tell them at the initial stages of your asylum claim.

You may wish to notify the Home Office (with the help of your lawyer) in your Preliminary Information Questionnaire or in your asylum substantive interview (see section below).

If you did not have a medical report to document your any psychological or physical signs of torture or other ill-treatment in time for your substantive interview, it could be important to get a report to support your asylum appeal or a fresh claim for asylum.

Read about asylum appeals here and about fresh claims here.

In August 2021, the Home Office released new guidance about medical evidence in asylum claims. You should make sure your lawyer is aware of this new guidance. You can find the guidance here.

With thanks to Alison Summers.



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