Human rights of refugees and the situation of refugees with disabilities

1 November 2015
Participants of the conference

The disability movement from all over Europe met in Brussels

Representatives of organisations of persons with disabilities from across Europe gathered together this weekend in Brussels for EDF’s Board meeting. The meeting focused on the UN’s recommendations to the EU on how it should better implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A special focus was also given to the refugee crisis and persons with disabilities including women and children.

“The EU is confronted with a serious economic and migration crisis but that should not serve as an excuse for the governments to re-allocate their funding leaving some people behind. Additional funding should be allocated to cope with the refugee crisis and all actions should take into consideration the needs of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities. The EU has to find a human-rights way out of this situation taking all people on board”, said EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis.

Representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF and Red Cross gave their own perspective on the migration crisis in Europe.

Valentina Otmacic from UNICEF in Croatia talked about UNICEF’s work in this emergency situation saying that 20% of migrants are children and they are exposed to cold, lack of shelter, long time of travel, physical and emotional exhaustion, family separation, stress and trauma. She emphasised that advocacy is needed to make these children visible.

The Regional Representative for Europe of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jan Jarab, expressed serious concerns regarding the current situation of refugees, and the approach of the EU. He pointed out that the focus of the EU on security measures, and building fences is misplaced- it is driving refugees into the hands of smugglers, and to their deaths in the waters around Europe. He suggested the redirection of the EU policy and financing towards managing the proper reception of refugees.

Eberhard Lueder from the EU office of the Red Cross stressed the huge work done by volunteers in the different border countries to help refugees and asylum seekers and to ease their integration. According to him there is a major difficulty linked to the non-coherent approach with the European institutions and the lack of a defined migration policy.

In closing the EDF Board, John Dolan from the Disability Federation of Ireland gave his personal reflection on the role of EDF and its members towards refugees with disabilities in Europe. He said: “We can speak in terms of policy, but we also have to translate this into something more tangible, in welcoming and supporting these people who are our disabled brothers and sisters.”


EDF warmly welcomes: Ieder'in as Dutch National Council, the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) as ordinary member and the Vittime Italiane Talidomide (VITA) as associate member.


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