INS Issues New Guidelines for Children's Asylum Claims

December 10, 1998

WASHINGTON - The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued new guidelines today designed to enhance the ability of INS officers to evaluate claims of children seeking asylum. The INS guidelines make the United States only the second country in the world to adopt special procedures for considering the unique needs of its youngest asylum seekers.

"As part of the Administration's announcement marking the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly, President Clinton today underscored the new INS Guidelines for Children's Asylum Claims," INS Commissioner Doris Meissner said. "The new guidelines not only reflect the Administration's continued international leadership in humanitarian issues, they also demonstrate that INS is taking concrete action to further the protection needs of refugees children."

In refining existing asylum procedures, the guidelines recognize that children under the age of 18 may experience persecution differently from adults and may not present testimony with the same degree of precision as adults. The guidelines suggest child-sensitive procedures to help INS Asylum Officers and overseas Immigration Officers interact more meaningfully with children during asylum or refugee interviews.

Some governments and cultures condone human rights violations against children simply by their inaction. Theses violations can take a number of forms including abusive child labor practices, trafficking in children, rape, forced prostitution and the forcible recruitment of children by armies fighting in armed conflicts.

While the guidelines do not change the law in any way, they help provide the child asylum seeker with a comfortable, secure environment in which to best present his or her claim. All Asylum Officers in the United States will receive training designed to help them use and implement the new guidance and reinforce their awareness of children's and cross-cultural issues.

The INS Resource Information Center (RIC) will also issue country conditions information to inform Asylum Officers of the legal and cultural situation of children in their countries or origin, on the incidence of exploitation and other victimization, and on the adequacy of state protection afforded to children. The guidelines and the information gathered by the RIC will enhance the ability of INS officers to make informed, consistent and fair decisions during both the interview process and the legal analysis of the claim.

INS developed the Guidelines for Children's Asylum Claims as a collaborative effort after consultations with interested U.S. government and non-governmental organizations and individuals, as well as with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In May of 1995, INS issued similar guidelines for the asylum claims of women.

In 1996, Canada issued "Child Refugee Claimants: Procedural and Evidentiary Issues," the first document of its kind issued by a country operating a refugee determination system.

- INS -

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98121159.