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Experts in the Asylum Process - Dr Mark Burgin

08/06/20. Dr. Mark Burgin BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP discusses how experts use evidence in an asylum case in their reports to assist the tribunal.

The First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum) deals with asylum cases and of over 10k cases appealed about half are successful.

Overturned cases are not often reported and the reasons are generally unknown but those who deal with these cases cite poor evidence as a major part of the problem.

Experts frequently complain that they were the first person to document the asylum seeker’s experiences many weeks or months after the events.

However a proportion of expert reports are criticised and the opinions that are ignored because their reports are considered unsafe.


A key piece of evidence that a person faces unacceptable risk from living in their own country is a history of torture assessed using the Istanbul Protocol.

The complexity of the Istanbul Protocol comes from the number of different areas that need covering and language and psychological barriers.

Asylum experts are paid a little towards their costs and generally spend a day with the person and several days writing up the report.

Consequently those who take this work are less experienced at writing expert reports and struggle to maintain independence against the organisations who instruct them.

Pre-existing illness

The tribunal takes into account issues such as whether the treatments are available in the home country, whether their health condition will deteriorate in an IRC.

They rarely tip the balance and experts can fall back on generalisations such as ‘living in a secure environment always causes a deterioration in health’.

Pre-existing illness is important both in helping the tribunal take into account the individual circumstances and apply reasonable adjustments.

The expert should provide a balanced view, even if that does not support the asylum seeker, because otherwise the tribunal will simply ignore the report.


The tribunal can take into account disabilities that they can see but many disabilities are invisible and require an expert trained in disability analysis to assess.

Few experts who are working with asylum seekers have this training as it involves working for the DWP for at least a year or in occupational health.

Without this training the expert will struggle to explain why the asylum seeker will have difficulties if they return to their country of origin.

The power of a well written disability report is that the tribunal can use it to answer most of those material questions that they wish to raise, without the expert being present.


The legal process takes too long and appears arbitrary when a judgment reversed which is bad for the asylum seekers, the expert and the tribunals.

One part of the problem is that if asylum tribunals do not find the expert’s reports helpful they still need to waste time and effort reading these documents.

Inexperienced experts can find themselves becoming overinvolved with the asylum seeker and providing ‘hired gun’ type reports which try to argue the case.

A senior expert with skills in disability analysis can help the tribunal see the asylum seeker as a person, whose individual circumstances are key.

Doctor Mark Burgin, BM BCh (oxon) MRCGP is on the General Practitioner Specialist Register.

Dr. Burgin can be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 0845 331 3304 website

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