Disabled Refugees Welcome
Submitted by: Jamie Bolling - Director
Email: [email protected]
Introduction to the project
Disabled Refugees Welcome (DRW) is a three-year integration project carried out in Sweden by the Independent Living Institute. The project is financed by Allmänna Arvsfonden (the Swedish Inheritance Fund) from September 2017 – August 2020.
The purpose of DRW is to develop ways of improving reception conditions and integration of disabled newcomers. During the project, the target groups’ needs will be documented and activities developed which will empower the targeted group. Results are being shared with the authorities and organisations in order to allow findings and new methods to be incorporated into the existing migration and integration processes.
The projects’ aim was to focus on Stockholm during the first two years and then to spread its results throughout the country. But from the beginning, DRW met individuals from the target group needing support throughout the entire country. For the work in Stockholm, DRW cooperated with the City of Stockholm. As the project evolves, the list of organisations with which DRW cooperates grows to include other DPOs, ethnic organisations and migration projects but also authorities, the Swedish Church and refugee organisations.
The project aims to better receive disabled refugees coming to Sweden and encourage integration into their host society.
Main activities of the Good Practice
DRW has held many various activities to reach key actors within the area of migration area, as well as activities to empower the target group. Examples of these are:
- Activity to reach key actors – Roundtables to share experience on how to work within a precise area; Theme days for capacity building; Information days to spread information about the project; Participation in key conferences and networks to learn about what is happening but also to share information about DRW; Meetings with integration officers based in the municipalities of the region of Stockholm so they are made aware that the project exists; Writing and spreading of an information handbook to share the results of the project; Study visits to find out how other organisations are working.
- Activity for target group - Drop-ins to meet the team; Individual support meetings to share what is working or not in the integration process; Theme days on desired topics such as: living accommodations, PTSD, family reunification; Women’s group meetings for capacity building; Photovoice courses to gain knowledge of how participants describe their experiences of living in Sweden as a migrant with a disability.
- Information spreading: Social media spreads information to the target group as well as results found. Writing of a regular newsletter to spread information on activities held, what is in the pipeline, and results.
- DHR – The Swedish Organisation for mobility impairment
Challenges and how they were overcome
The target groups’ situation is crucial. People are having issues with daily needs which slows down their integration process in Sweden. People within the project are trying to survive and do not have the strength to think of increasing their own capacity, making it hard to empower them.
Transport is proving a problem. People who are in the asylum process do not have access to transport or only to a limited degree. For people with mobility challenges it is impossible to travel with public transportation. This means people cannot attend their official meetings nor meetings with the project.
Through the project, it has been noted that there is a gap: people working within migration lack knowledge and capacity on disability issues and vice versa. People working within social issues and with disability know little or nothing about migration. This means that the target group is not getting the information on the Swedish system that they would need. It also means that support is not been provided and people are met by unfriendly and unaware personnel.
Results of the Good Practice
The project has met about 80 persons from the target group and has been able to document what is working as well as the obstacles met within the integration process. Input for legislation change has been given to the authorities. Demands have been listed that are being shared to raise awareness on what is not working with the integration process of disabled migrants.
Individuals have been supported to access living arrangements, transport and social services. Through various group meetings and training, disabled persons are accessing peer support and becoming more empowered.
The project has set up a volunteer network. This network has provided support for translation and interpretation during interviews, for flyers and brochures and other project materials. DRW even held a theme meeting on PTSD with the service of a psychologist who joined the network.
A network of relevant actors is growing. DRW is being interviewed for newspapers and magazines and has been on the Swedish Radio as well as the Arabic radio. DRW is asked to join conferences to share the project’s experiences and lessons learned.
Through the volunteer network DRW had four interns during its second year. One from Sweden, one from Canada and two from the USA.