Race, migratory status and disability

21 March 2020

The following is an excerpt of our European Human Rights Report - issue 3

Black and Minority Ethnic persons with disabilities

Black people with disabilities and people from ethnic minorities with disabilities are often victims of multiple and intersectional discrimination in all areas of life.

A report published by the charity BRAP, formerly known as ‘Birmingham Race Action Partnership’, highlights that detention rates in the United Kingdom under the Mental Health Act 1983 are 6% lower than average for white British mental health patients, while they are 32% higher than average for black Caribbean patients and 24% higher for multiple heritage white and black Caribbean patients. Black and minority ethnic women are three to six times more likely to be admitted to mental health units than average and more likely to be forcibly admitted. On the other hand, they are less likely to be admitted to women’s crisis houses and less likely to be referred to talking therapies.

The former psychiatrist and activist Suman Fernando has suggested that the health service could be “institutionally racist”. Consequently, persons with disabilities from ethnic minorities might be particularly affected and directly or indirectly discriminated against. The CRPD Committee recommended States to ensure proper data gathering necessary for the development of policies and programmes addressing multiple and intersectional forms of discrimination against persons from different races or ethnic groups with disabilities. 

Example of recommendations adopted by the CRPD Committee in relation to ethnic minorities with disabilities

12. The Committee is concerned that, albeit that there exists a large number of different ethnic groups in Peru, indigenous and minority persons with disabilities are not considered as being at high risk of suffering multiple discrimination and that no data on their number and situation exists. Consequently, the Committee expresses its concern at the situation of indigenous and minority persons with disabilities, in particular women and children with disabilities that live in rural areas, as well as persons with disabilities of African descent.

13. The Committee urges the State party to improve its data gathering in order to demonstrate clear statistics on indigenous and minority persons with disabilities. The Committee recommends that the State party place emphasis on the development of policies and programmes on indigenous and minority persons with disabilities, in particular women and children with disabilities that live in rural areas, as well as persons of African descent, in order to address the multiple forms of discrimination that these persons may suffer.

Migrants with disabilities 

Asylum seekers and migrants with disabilities are also particularly susceptible to intersectional discrimination. In the survey “Migrants, speak up” conducted by the European Network Against Racism, a migrant explained that there are no set infrastructures and policies to help migrants with disabilities. One migrant with disabilities reported:

 I need to have disability papers. However, in Germany no one cares about disabled migrants, no one questions whether you are disabled or healthy…They wrote that I am fit and healthy even though one of my feet and two toes on the other have been amputated.

Another comment indicates that migrants have not received proper support for their physical and psychosocial disabilities for as long as eight years:

I’ve been living in Greece for 8 years now. My situation is very bad. My mother and one of my brothers are disabled, while the other one is mentally ill. We need help. We live in a very hard state, with no health care and no proper roof to protect us. 

The CRPD Committee specifically addressed the situation of refugees and asylum seekers when it reviewed the implementation of the CRPD by States Parties. It notes the importance of the accessibility of refugee status determination procedures, equal access to disability support schemes and benefits and incorporation of disability in refugee and asylum legislation.

Example of recommendations adopted by the CRPD Committee in relation to refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities in Cyprus 

15. The Committee is deeply concerned about the precarious situation of refugees and asylum-seeking persons with disabilities allowed by the State party and also notes with concern that refugee status determination procedures are not accessible. While noting the indication by the State party delegation that refugees with disabilities are entitled to the same disability support schemes and benefits — including wheelchairs, care and information — as Cypriot citizens with disabilities, the Committee also notes with concern that equal access to these support schemes and benefits is not available for all refugees and asylum seekers. Furthermore, the Committee notes with concern that, in the Refugees Law, refugees with disabilities are referred to as “persons with special needs”, a subcategory of “vulnerable persons”, which constitutes an approach that may hamper the application of a human rights-based approach.

16.The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Ensure the accessibility of all refugee status determination procedures;

(b) Ensure an adequate standard of living, including access to disability support schemes and allowances in law and in practice for all non-nationals with disabilities residing in the State party on an equal basis with Cypriot citizens;

(c) Incorporate disability, and a human-rights-based approach to disability, in the Refugees Law and all other relevant refugee and asylum legislation, policies and programmes;

(d) Ratify the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, and endorse the 2016 Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.

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