Shining a Spotlight on Discrimination against Migrants and Refugees with Disabilities

Last Updated on 31/03/2021 by National Justice Project

The National Justice Project, in conjunction with the Sydney Centre for International Law, has co-authored a submission to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Our submission discusses systemic discrimination against migrants, refugees, people seeking asylum, and people of a culturally and linguistically diverse background. Our submission draws particular attention to child migrants with disabilities.

In our submission, we show that the Australian immigration program tends to admit primarily healthy, job-ready migrants, meaning that migrants with disabilities are “forgotten, invisible or actively excluded.” By neglecting their needs, migrants living with disability are “susceptible to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.”

We also draw attention to the fact that there are very few accurate statistics on the number of people with disabilities across the various categories of migrants and refugees, and that this absence of data makes it “inherently difficult to assess the extent to which Australia is complying with its international legal obligations” to people living with disabilities.

Other issues in the submission include the failure to consider the positive economic contributions by persons with disabilities, the failure to distinguish between disease and disability, the limited access to social security support and disability benefits of migrants living with disabilities, and the lack of effective policies relating to migrants with disabilities in detention.

The submission also shines a spotlight on the treatment of migrant and refugee children, stating that “the practice of transferring children for processing in foreign countries has been nothing short of cruel and inhumane.”

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was also raised, highlighting how lockdown measures have affected people with disabilities, examining “what is required to guard against violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of these people.”

The submission makes a number of recommendations, including the need for the Australian government to respect and respond to criticism of its laws, policies and practices, as well as responding in a way that is consistent with Australia’s obligation under international human rights law. The submission also suggested that there is a need to amend policy guidelines, that arrests and detention of persons with disabilities in immigration contexts should be subject to independent oversight, and that no children are transferred to offshore processing centres.

To read the full submission, click here.