Disabled refugees face serious barriers to resettlement

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The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA); the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA); the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA); and the Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) have today released new research outlining the significant obstacles faced by refugees with disabilities who are living in Australia.

The report, entitled Barriers and Exclusions: the support needs of newly arrived refugees with a disability is based on consultations with individuals affected and service providers. It reveals that despite policy improvements which have enabled more refugees with disabilities to settle in Australia, many people still face barriers to resettlement upon arrival.

Paul Power, RCOA CEO, said “As a welcome result of policy changes brought in in 2012, we have noticed a significant increase in the number of refugees with a disability resettling in Australia. However, this has not been met with the appropriate funding and policies to support their integration and they continue to be excluded as a result.”

The report identifies a number of hurdles for newly arrived refugees with disabilities including: access to timely assessment and support; provision of essential equipment and aides; lack of accessible and appropriate housing; inadequate support within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); lack of culturally appropriate disability services; and lack of translating and interpreting services within disability services and the NDIS.

One service provider quoted in the report stated: “We have clients who are getting off the plane and need a wheelchair and we don’t know that they need a wheelchair. They’re met at the airport and having to carry family members on their back”. Another cited the example of a client who was not provided with appropriate housing: “the only solution for her for things like showering was that her husband had to carry her to a taxi, that he had to pay for, and the taxi would go to the local sports and aquatic centre, and they have to pay 10 dollars for entry, and then go in, he’d have to carry her in and shower her in the disabled shower, go back in the taxi and then go home.”

The report provides 14 key recommendations for resolving some of these obstacles. NEDA CEO, Dwayne Cranfield stated: “Refugees are more likely to have a disability than other migrant groups or the Australian born population. The issues outlined in this report are tantamount to discrimination against an already marginalised and vulnerable group. We hope that policy makers will understand the importance of this issue and take appropriate action based on these recommendations.”

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