Who’s Talking About Refugees With Disabilities?

I couldn’t help but wonder as I witnessed the recent footage of refugees making vast journeys to seek asylum, what is happening to people with disabilities who are in need of sanctuary, where is the discussion taking place around their safety? People with disabilities tend to be the most vulnerable to abuse in our societies, and can face many environmental, social, financial, political and communication barriers, and that’s before you consider the trauma of having to flee your home.


According to the Women’s Refugee Commission:

as many as 7.7 million of the world’s 51 million people displaced by conflict have disabilities. People with disabilities are among the most hidden and neglected of all displaced people, excluded from or unable to access most aid programs because of physical and social barriers or because of negative attitudes and biases.’


Given David Cameron’s delayed and arguably pathetic response to the needs of his fellow human beings, needs which the Westminster government has long held an element of responsibility in creating; I was curious as to what level of assistance DC may be planning.

‘Since 2011, the UK has granted humanitarian protection to almost 5,000 Syrians through our normal asylum procedures. A further 216 people have been relocated under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons scheme so far.’


One could be forgiven for assuming these acts to be generous, at a glance. On closer inspection however… it’s important to understand the Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme.

‘UK to modestly expand “Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme” for Syrian refugees David Cameron has announced a modest increase in the numbers of Syrian refugees to be resettled in the UK under its “Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme” (VPRS). A further 200 refugees will now be accepted under the VPRS to the UK, on top of the 187 who have so far benefited from the scheme which was initially intended to provide resettlement for “several hundred” of the most vulnerable refugees. The Prime Minister emphasised, however, that the total number of resettlement places under the VPRS will not exceed 1,000. Survivors of sexual violence and torture, as well as disabled or elderly Syrian refugees are prioritised under the scheme whereby UNHCR representatives are tasked with identifying particularly vulnerable refugees from camps within the region. UNHCR has announced, however, that the numbers of Syrian refugees registered in camps in surrounding countries has now surpassed four million; and a growing number of reports emphasise the high risk of further violence, including sexual violence, particularly for women and girls in Syria and the camps in surrounding countries, Asylum Aid is calling on the government to vastly expand its resettlement efforts.’


The figures stated above (187/216) do not even meet the governments own meagre targets under the VPRS scheme, and the question begs in my mind, why is such a feeble hand being held out to those in most need? Whilst numbers, quotas and timescales are being thrown around political chambers; we hear nothing of the paltry efforts that are being extended to the disabled.  As is usual, not many of us stop to consider the most marginalised; disability has always had a habit of staying off the radar, of remaining hidden to the mainstream view. This has to stop.

If this post has got you thinking about these issues then please read, research, discuss, and inform at every opportunity. Write to your MP and ask questions, organise a fundraising event to bring about awareness. Just some ideas, but I sincerely hope that the discussion about refugees with disabilities can find a voice; the silence around people with disabilities is overwhelming, and it is dangerous.


Further reading:

Women’s Refugee Commission:





About differal

Fledgling academic negotiating systems at every turn: living off-grid, living with MS, playing with critical theory for transformative social praxis.
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