Legal and Ethical Considerations Related to the Asylum Process

  • Jane Herlihy
  • Stuart TurnerEmail author


This chapter sets out to cover some of the pitfalls in applying “common sense” to legal decision making relating to the asylum process and the need to engage with the wider body of general psychological knowledge. We set out a brief summary of the law, and comment on the central issue of credibility. Because the asylum seeker rarely has objective documentation of their persecution, the decision-maker usually has to consider two primary issues – first if the claim meets the threshold for acceptance and second if the claim is to be believed (credibility). Memory is taken as an example of a process that may influence the asylum claim and/or decision; for example, discrepant reporting is often taken as proof of deceit. The scientific evidence in fact suggests that this is an erroneous assumption, that memory is not fixed. It is common for memory, even memory for traumatic events, to change. It is argued that there is a need to apply expert psychological knowledge, not just in the preparation of medico-legal reports on individuals but also in making the whole system of legal decision-making more psychologically informed and more consistent with the scientific literature. After a brief consideration of interviewing issues, there is also reference to both the potential impact of vicarious traumatisation on decision-makers and the difficulties in law of tolerating uncertainty.


Asylum law Credibility Discrepancy Memory Interview Technique 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the Study of Emotion and LawLondonUK
  2. 2.Trauma ClinicLondonUK

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