Asylum-Seekers “Let Down” By Disability Organisations

Disabled asylum-seekers and refugees do not receive enough support from disability organisations, which are often unaware of their rights and entitlements, according to a new report*.

The report also found that asylum-seekers face significant barriers to accessing statutory health and housing services and benefits.

The report, which examined the disability-related work of refugee community groups and disability organisations in London, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Support Trust, which promotes independent living.

Neil Amas, director of City University’s information centre about asylum-seekers and refugees, which carried out the research, told a conference to launch the report: “The research shows there is a considerable support gap between the specialist refugee sector and mainstream disability sector.

“While refugee community organisations play a huge role, their resources are overstretched so do not meet the needs of disabled asylum-seekers and refugees.”

One asylum-seeker, Iman Saab, told the conference that she was not entitled to claim disability living allowance, was unable to get a job and had to live on supermarket vouchers and a small subsistence allowance from social services.

Jhon Marulanda, of the Latin American Disabled People’s Project, said that benefits agencies and social services were often unaware of the support asylum-seekers and refugees were entitled to.

Although asylum-seekers wanted to do voluntary work or find jobs, immigration rules prevented them from doing so, he said.

Claire Glasman, from WinVisible, told the conference that immigration legislation had eroded asylum-seekers’ right to legal aid and support from local authorities.

The report’s recommendations include training in immigrants’ rights for disability organisations, statutory services, the UK Border Agency and refugee community organisations; a review of the provision of interpreters; a Home Office review of support for disabled asylum-seekers and those refused asylum; and a review of how data is collected, to address the lack of information on the needs of disabled asylum-seekers and refugees

* Supporting disabled refugees and asylum seekers: opportunities for new approaches