Is the beating I suffered considered persecution for asylum purposes?

Beatings and broken bones are not always considered to be a form of persecution -- it depends on the victim's reaction.

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Question

I am a Russian citizen who is Baptist. I entered the United States on a tourist visa eight months ago after being beaten by nationalists who did not like my proselytizing. They broke my leg and ordered me to leave the country. Is this beating considered persecution such that I can apply for asylum here?

Answer

Let’s start by considering the basic framework of your possible asylum claim. Persecution perpetrated on account of religion, as seems to be the cause in your case, fits the definition of refugee. The persecutor can be either the government or a group that the government cannot or will not control. If the Russian government was unable or unwilling to protect you from the nationalists, who beat you on account of your religion, you would seem to meet the general definition of a refugee.

Beatings, however, are not always considered to be persecution, even if you end up with a broken bone. The Asylum Officer or Immigration Judge who hears your case will look at how the broken leg affected you, both physically and emotionally. If the broken leg did not prevent you from working and did not affect your daily life, it is possible that this injury will not be considered persecution.

When thinking about how the beating affected you, take into consideration your physical health as well as your emotional well being. The beating negatively affected you if you were so shaken by the incident that you cannot sleep or you find yourself jumping at every sound. Explain any emotional or psychological reactions in your asylum application and at your interview or hearing.

Officers and judges examine each asylum claim individually. If you are a strong, healthy individual who did not let this beating interfere with your activities, it is likely that the harm will not be considered severe enough to constitute persecution. If, on the other hand, you are elderly, in ill health, or if the beating was a culmination of multiple incidents that occurred because of your religion, it is quite likely that you will be found to have suffered persecution in the past.

Unlike certain types of harm that are always persecution, like core human rights violations (such as genocide, slavery and torture) and rape, beatings and broken bones are very much tied to how you reacted to the violence. To bolster your claim, you should submit any and all police reports and medical or psychological records that relate to this incident.

An experienced immigration attorney can help you put together your case.

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