The EU must protect the rights of refugees and migrants with disabilities

11 August 2020

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum aims to create a comprehensive, sustainable and crisis-proof framework for managing asylum and migration in the EU. It will cover the whole migration route – from origin and transit countries to the receiving countries in the EU. This initiative must guarantee the rights of refugees and migrants with disabilities.

Refugees and migrants with disabilities in Europe

Refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities face the same risks as other refugees, however compounded by many other issues: finding themselves at heightened risk of violence, including sexual and domestic abuse, discrimination, inaccessible facilities, inaccessible support services or disruption of these services being disproportionately more likely to put their lives at risk, risk of being confined to segregated, institutional settings, and in some cases pre-existing health conditions which leave them more at risk of developing serious illness or dying.

EU legislation obliges member states to identify persons with disabilities in reception and detention centres, but there is a lack of formally defined procedures to identify and support persons with disabilities. Many are identified on an informal or ad hoc basis, or late in the procedure.

Lack of data dissagregated by disability, gender and age means that it is not possible to correctly assess the situation.

Lack of necessary support and assistance to persons with disabilities, in the reception centers, and during the asylum-seeking procedure.

Especially women and children with disabilities at heightened risk of violence, including sexual and domestic abuse.

Our demands

We call the European Commission to comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)* through the New Pact on Migration and Asylum:

  • Collect data disaggregated by disability, gender and age on refugees and asylum seekers
  • Identify refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities, chronic illnesses and their families when arriving to the European Union as to properly plan and manage their reception and to guarantee they receive the necessary support and assistance in the reception centers and during the asylum-seeking procedure
  • Take measures to guarantee that all mainstream support services to refugees and asylum seekers are accessible and inclusive to persons with disabilities and their families
  • Ensure that refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and chronic illnesses have access to inclusive education, health care, decent living conditions, accessible housing and support to live in the community
  • Ensure that refugees and migrants with disabilities have access to integration programmes, language and digital competency training and to the necessary technical equipment, as to be able to make decisions for their own lives
  • Take measures to make policies on family reunification accessible and inclusive to the needs of persons with disabilities, as its high requirements and short deadlines do not take into account that persons with disabilities need more time to access services and complete the process
  • Include the rights of persons with disabilities in every element of the EU’s approach to refugees and asylum seekers, including in the responses to and recovery from COVID-19
  • Meaningfully involve and consult with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in designing, implementing and evaluating the New Pact on Migration and Asylum and any related initiatives, including on COVID-19

*Article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) addresses the rights of persons with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, stating that: “States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.”


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