Fleeing Persecution and Seeking Refuge: Evaluation of the Asylum Seeker

May 5, 2018 9:00 am - 5:00 pm


1255 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027

About the Workshop

According to UNHCR, by 2016, contemporary global crises created by armed conflicts, persecution, human rights violations, and generalized violence had forced approximately 65.6 million people into flight, the largest mass forced movement of peoples in history. A number of these individuals have sought or are seeking asylum in the U.S. and many have experienced severe human rights abuses.

This workshop is designed to train licensed mental health professionals such as social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists to evaluate and document the emotional trauma of persecution, discrimination, abuse, conflict, and displacement – issues at the heart of many applications for asylum and other forms of relief. The psychological-medical-legal affidavits submitted by medical and mental health professionals on behalf of such asylum seekers are frequently the determining factor when immigration officials or judges grant asylum or other relief from deportation.

About the Presenters

Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith, PHD, ABPP, is a licensed psychologist who is originally from Sierra Leone. She is Board Certified in Group Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). Dr. Akinsulure-Smith is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the City College of New York, the City University of New York (CUNY) and at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She has cared for forced migrants, as well as survivors of torture, armed conflict, and human rights abuses from around the world at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture since 1999. A proud co-founder of Nah We Yone, Inc., a non-profit organization (1997-2010) created to proactively respond to war survivors from the African Diaspora, Dr. Akinsulure-Smith and her co-founders at Nah We Yone were among the 2003 recipients of New York City’s prestigious Union Square Awards. In 2005, she received Teachers College, Columbia University’s “Early Career Award.” From 2008-2010, Dr. Akinsulure-Smith served on the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on the Psychological effect of war on children and families who are refugees from armed conflicts residing in the United States (PEWCF). Dr. Akinsulure-Smith has participated in human rights investigations in Sierra Leone with Physicians for Human Rights and the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, Human Rights Division and served as a joint expert on gender crimes and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for the International Criminal Court. She provides forensic evaluations, human rights consultations, and frequently works with attorneys handling cases involving torture, trauma and maltreatment.

Hawthorne E. Smith, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and Clinical Director of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture. He is also an Associate Clinical Professor at the NYU School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry. Among his clinical duties, Dr. Smith has facilitated a support group for French-speaking African survivors of torture for the past 22 years. He also speaks extensively at professional conferences and seminars on providing clinical services for survivors of socio-political violence, and enhancing cross-cultural clinical skills among therapeutic service providers. Dr. Smith has been recognized for his work with such awards as: the Robin Hood Foundation’s “Hero Award”; the “Frantz Fanon Award” from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health; the “W.E.B. DuBois Award” from the International Youth Leadership Institute; the “Distinguished Alumni – Early Career Award” from Teachers College; the “Man of Distinction Award” from the National Association of Health Service Executives; the “Union Square Award for Community Advocacy” from the Fund for the City of New York; and a “Humanitarian Award” from the Cousul General of the Republic of Haiti . Currently, Dr. Smith provides forensic evaluations, human rights consultations, and mitigation services on capital cases for private legal firms and public entities such as the US Department of Defense and the US Office of the Federal Defender. Dr. Smith is also a professional musician (saxophonist and vocalist) with national and international experience.

John Wilkinson, MA is the Manager of Legal Services at PSOT. He has served as BIA-Accredited Representative with the program since 2011. He represents clients in their applications for asylum, family reunification, permanent residency, citizenship, employment authorization, green card lottery, and refugee travel documents. In addition, he identifies and refers clients for pro bono legal representation and services. He serves as a contact point for lawyers requesting documentation for clients they are representing from the Program. He frequently accompanies clients on naturalization and adjustment interviews with USCIS officers, following extensive preparation. He also provides legal orientation sessions to new clients and staff. Mr. Wilkinson has served as a job developer for refugees, as a social service provider for African immigrant families, and as a paralegal for an immigration.

For more information and to register for the event, please click here. 6.5 contact hours are available for NYS, NJ and CT Licensed Social Workers. Licensed Social Workers for other states, please refer to your state licensing agency and email swope@columbia.edu. This event is also open to the public.