City Hall launch of ICAR research on disabled refugees and asylum seekers

ICAR’s new research into levels of support for disabled refugees and asylum seekers was launched at London’s City Hall on 14 November. The research was commissioned by the Metropolitan Support Trust (MST) and supported by the Greater London Authority (GLA).

 

A full house of 100+ participants including many of the organisations and individuals who participated in the research, spanning central and local government, statutory providers, and disabled, refugee and BAME organisations. The event was chaired by ex Minister for Immigration Barbara Roche, now chair of MST.

 

ICAR director Neil Amas introduced the research and highlighted two key findings: the gap in support for this group from mainstream disability organisations, with the strain being picked up largely by refugee community organisations; and the profound effect a disabled person’s immigration status has on the level of support they receive.

 

Claire Glasman, representing the women’s disability organisation WinVisible, raised her organisation’s concerns that many disabled asylum seekers experience extreme hardship due to restrictions in income, prevention from employment, denial of services and discrimination.

 

Jhon Marulanda for refugee community organisation the Latin American Disabled Peoples Project focussed on the difficulties users of the Project had in accessing statutory services such as GPs and Job Centres. He claimed that staff at these places often do not understand the rights and entitlements of disabled refugees and asylum seekers. 

 

Disabled asylum seeker Iman Saab described the hardships of not being allowed to work, and instead having to get by on supermarket vouchers and subsistence payments from social services as opposed to normal disability benefits.

 

According to deputy mayor Richard Barnes, the research findings would ‘frame our vision’ in regard to the GLA’s equalities agenda. He also confirmed that in March 2009 the new four year Refugee Integration Strategy for London would be ready and, following regional policy elsewhere, a London Strategic Migration Partnership would replace the old Board for Refugee Integration in London.

 

In the discussion a number of the research findings were revisited, such as the effect of status on access to support, as evidenced by the recent Slough judgement on local authority support for disabled asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds, and by the increase in passport checks at GPs’ surgeries. Culturally appropriate training for frontline staff was one strongly supported recommendation, especially for NHS staff. Contributors to the discussion included social workers, the chair of NHS London Strategic Health Authority, and advocacy and campaigning groups. 

 

Finally the participants broke up into workshops to discuss three of the report’s main recommendations, around refugee and asylum seeker access to mainstream disability organisations; relevant training across different types of organisations; and a proposed review of Home Office policies.

 

See:

Press release

 

Executive summary

Full report

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