Planning together: Empowering refugees with disabilities
The project in brief
National Confederation of Disabled People (NCDP) of Greece
July 2017-September 2018
The project of the National Confederation of Disabled People (NCDP) of Greece supported and empowered refugees with disabilities and their families and facilitated their inclusion in society. It was funded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). NCDP’s actions under this project led to receiving the prize "Integrating Children with Disabilities" under the "Project Urban Refugee Children- Innovation Challenge" by UNHCR in March 2017.
- The implementation of the requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the 1951 Refugee Convention.
- The assurance of the rights of those seeking asylum and refugees with disabilities and/or chronic diseases as well as their families.
- The assurance of the conditions which guarantee human rights and decent living according to international standards, for those seeking asylum and refugees with disabilities and/or chronic diseases as well as their families.
- The identification and support of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and/or chronic diseases as well as their families.
- The assurance of equal access of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and/or chronic diseases and their families to services and commodities such as proper accommodation, sanitary facilities, sanitary conditions, food, stay, medical care, mental health services, psychosocial support, communication.
- The support and integration of asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities and/or chronic diseases and their families.
The project was implemented with support by UNHCR.
- Local Communities
- Persons with Disabilities
Challenges and how they were overcome
Under the bad conditions in sites and urban areas, it was vital to identify asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities and ensure their access to protection, to special services and assistance. From data that had surfaced in the public eye, asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities did not have access to services and commodities such as accessible accommodation, health care and psycho-social rehabilitation services, which constitute a form of discrimination. There was a need to build the capacity of state authorities and humanitarian actors, including UNHCR staff and UNHCR partners, in order to identify and efficiently include persons with disabilities in their work. Referral pathways and response mechanism systems needed to be strengthened and implemented. Referral and support should enable persons with disabilities to develop coping mechanisms and improve their ability to become self-reliant. Taking into consideration the aforementioned situation as well as the fact that, having experienced the traumatic experience of war and fleeing their country, refugees and asylum seekers are at an increased risk of facing a long-standing impairment (physical, mental, intellectual or sensory), NCDP considered it a priority to take initiatives in order to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities and their families enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Moreover, the most significant obstacles were the following:
- Poor information of Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations about the rights of persons with disabilities
- Lack of interpretation in public services
- A lot of non-accessible structures
- Social stereotypes
How they were overcome
NCDP had an indirect cooperation with UNHCR because its basic actions took place out of the refugee sites/camps. However, NCDP's previous experience as well as UNHCR's guidelines, tools, trainings, meetings for partners and the experience with refugees, helped NCDP to partner better with this international humanitarian agency. The implementation of UNHCR technical procedures and the use of tools was a little more complex but their support in every step of implementation could be useful for any other DPOs limited experience.
Results of the Good Practice
- Refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and/or chronic diseases were empowered in order to be able to claim themselves for their human rights.
- The project emphasized the significance of the multiple benefits from the participation of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and/or chronic diseases in the planning and implementation of actions and services addressed to them.
- Awareness was raised among professionals and the wider civil society and knowledge was increased about the specific needs of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities leading to more favourable conditions for the provision of effective support to this group.
- The results of the project were a good tool for the exertion of pressure to the Greek State.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Activities of the project such as the implementation of awareness-raising and training seminars on disability and chronic diseases issues equipped professionals active in the provision of services to refugees and asylum seekers, as well as staff of public reception, identification and hosting services with knowledge on how to better respond to the specific needs of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and/or chronic diseases. Organizations working with refugees in the field were also given the opportunity to meet with and create close cooperation relations with Disabled persons' organizations (DPOs) and through these linkages manage more effectively cases of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
This objective was achieved through the following activities:
- Functioning of a hotline providing information and guidance about disability issues to organizations working with refugees and asylum seekers, but also information and support to refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and/or chronic diseases as well as their families.
- Conduct of individual meetings and provision of individualized support and guidance to refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and/or chronic diseases and to their families and referrals to competent service providers.
- Implementation of consultation meetings with refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities, chronic diseases and their families, with the aim to identify specific needs of this population and elaborate on possible solutions for better addressing these needs.
- Implementation of peer counselling sessions for refugees and asylum seekers who are parents of children with disabilities and/or chronic diseases.
- Establishment and activation of an Advisory Committee consisting of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities and members of their families.
Unfortunately, even though the project "Planning together: Empowering refugees with disabilities" was of paramount importance and it was the only European initiative for this population that was run by an organization of persons with disabilities, UNHCR did not provide more funding after the end of the project in September 2018. NCDP was not able to support it fully financially by itself but it continues to support it partly voluntarily.
Mr. Ioannis Vardakastanis, NCDP & EDF President, ESAMEA - NCDP of Greece
Mrs. Clairy Tyradelly, Sociologist
Mrs. Evelina Kallimani, Social Worker