Help for migrants with disabilities hampered by screening gaps

Refugees and migrants arriving in the EU may also have a disability which can pass unnoticed, preventing them from receiving the particular support they need and are entitled to under EU law. As there is little information on migrants with disabilities and victims of torture, the latest FRA summary report on migration-related fundamental rights throws the spotlight on these issues.

Access the focus section on disability and the monthly data collection highlights.

The report looks at the challenges and good practices related to identifying migrants with disabilities, the reception conditions they face, as well as mental health issues which may be brought on or exacerbated by the ordeals they have endured during migration. Some of the main findings include:

  1. Formal procedures for identifying  people with disabilities and victims of torture are inadequate. This can have significant knock-on effects for the provision of targeted support and assistance which Member States are obliged to offer throughout the arrival, registration and asylum procedures. Some individuals do not disclose disabilities to the police, social services or migration authorities for fear this may affect their asylum application.
  2. Health screening, an important step in process of identifying disabilities and victims of torture, is often subject to long waiting periods. Screening also tends to focus on ‘visible’ impairments. It also relies on the expertise of individual staff which further reduces the likelihood of migrants with disabilities receiving the particular protection that is granted them as ‘vulnerable people’ under EU law.
  3. Mental health problems, relating to trauma both in the country of origin and along the migration route, are particularly common. However, efforts to address such issues are hampered by a lack of resources and inadequate training for relevant staff in reception and detention centres. For women in particular, mental health issues are often linked to experiences of gender-based and sexual violence.
  4. There are no systematic data on how many migrants have a disability and, if so, what type.
  5. All seven Member States have some arrangements in place for people with disabilities in reception and detention centres. These include specific accommodation arrangements, steps to make facilities more accessible, and the provision of assistive devices such as wheelchairs and hearing aids. However, formalised support for victims of torture, such as access to rehabilitation programmes in reception and detention centres, is lacking in many locations.

The European Commission asked FRA to collect data about the fundamental rights situation of people arriving in Member States, particularly affected by large migration movements. The countries covered are: Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Sweden.

FRA has published overviews since September 2015. Each overview covers different issues including:

  • initial registration and asylum applications;
  • criminal proceedings initiated for offences related to irregular border crossing;
  • child protection;
  • reception conditions for new arrivals;
  • access to healthcare;
  • public response such as rallies of support, humanitarian assistance or voluntary work;
  • racist incidents such as demonstrations, online hate speech or hate crime.

While this month has a section looking specifically at migrants with disabilities and victims of torture, last month’s focus was on the impact of migration on local communities. Next month will be on family tracing and reunification.

Downloads: 

Monthly data collection on migration situation - August 2016 - Highlights

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