Day Against Racial Discrimination: Impact of COVID-19 on racialised people with disabilities

Day Against Racial Discrimination: Impact of COVID-19 on racialised people with disabilities

On this International Day Against Racial Discrimination, the European Disability Forum recognises the specific forms and abuses racialised persons with disabilities face due to racism and recalls the importance to combat all forms of discrimination in Europe.

Every day, racialised persons with disabilities are discriminated not only on the grounds of disability, but also based on their skin colour and ethnic origin. Discrimination and abuses were also exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are publishing below an extract from our Human Rights Report on COVID-19.

COVID-19 and racialised persons with disabilities

Because most European countries do not collect data on race, ethnicity, and disability, it is difficult to have detailed information on how COVID-19 affected racialised persons with disabilities in Europe.

Data available in the United Kingdom (UK) shows that, although disability may vary by ethnicity, numbers remain high, with 25% of Black/African adults, and 10% of Asian adults, in the UK being persons with disabilities. Research has also found that persons with disabilities from African or Black British ethnic backgrounds report the highest numbers of barriers and exclusion in society, while adults from white ethnic backgrounds report the lowest. COVID-19 made things worse.

The pandemic has exacerbated structural inequalities and racism, putting racialised people at a higher risk of becoming ill and suffering more strongly the socio-economic impact of the crisis. In the UK an investigation was launched after data revealed that people from Black, Asian, and ethnic minority background were up to twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than people of white British ethnicity.

Cases collected by the European Network Against Racism have highlighted multiple issues faced by racialised persons in Europe, including:

  • Denial of access to healthcare
  • Lack of access to protective measures at work during the confinement period
  • Lack of access to alternative housing following confinement measures
  • Denial of access to basic services (such as water and electricity) during the confinement period
  • Police abuse
  • Racist speech online or offline, or racist violence

In addition to the health impact of COVID-19, non-white persons with disabilities were at higher risk of facing human rights abuses from structural racism and discrimination in the COVID-19 response.

A report from Amnesty International illustrates how lockdown measures have exposed racial bias and discrimination within the police in Europe. For instance, in Seine Saint Denis, in France, the number of fines for breaching the lockdown was 3 times higher in one of the poorest areas, where most inhabitants are Black or of North African origin, than in the rest of the country (despite local authorities stating that respect for measures was similar to other areas). In Nice, another French city, 9 predominantly working class and minority ethnic neighbourhoods were subjected to longer overnight curfews than the rest of the city. There was also an increase in reports of police brutality, with numerous videos showing excess use of force by the police.

Racialised persons with psychosocial disabilities have been at an increased risk of involuntary psychiatric treatment and detention during the crisis. Previous evidence has shown that they were at a higher risk of coercion prior to the crisis, and that the number of involuntary placements in psychiatry increased since the beginning of the crisis.

More information:

ENAR, COVID-19 impact on racialised communities: interactive EU-wide map