Inclusion Europe members met for an exchange on how support to refugees with intellectual disabilities is provided in different countries. The call took place on 5 April.
We heard directly from those involved in supporting refugees:
- Ludmila Malcoci, Keystone Moldova
- Zoltán Szövérdfi-Szép, Ceva de spus, Romania
- Camille Latimier, Inclusion Czechia
- Adam Zawisny, PSONI, Poland
Raisa Kravchenko from the VGO Coalition in Ukraine talked about the current needs in the country.
Main take-aways from the call:
- There is need for more cooperation and involvement of state and international humanitarian agencies in supporting people with disabilities. So far, most of the support relies on local disability organisations and NGOs.
- There is a need for better registration of refugees with disabilities, for access to accommodation and public services. In some countries, there are issues recognising disability status, and providing refugees with finances.
- There is a need for providing accommodation and services (including education, employment) for those staying longer-term.
Edited notes from the speakers’ contributions:
Moldova established a national taskforce for refugees with disabilities.
- Keystone Moldova leads this task force. Keystone Moldova is an organisation that provides services for people with disabilities.
- There are weekly meetings with all those involved in supporting refugees with disabilities. This includes donors, national and international NGOs, UN HCR and others.
- The task force is developing action plan for support of refugees with disabilities.
- The task force is very important for sharing expertise, and for identifying main problems.
Keystone Moldova offers services for refugees with disabilities, including a phone line available 24/7.
- There are 5 to 6 requests every day concerning refugees with disabilities.
- Keystone provides them with information, psychological counselling, reference to other services.
Keystone Moldova has a mobile team with medical and social specialists, who support refugees directly.
- In Moldova, 95% of refugees are in hosting families, and only 5% of refugees are in shelters.
- These families are supported with food, hygiene products, equipment if they need it, etc.
Keystone Moldova also arranged a tent at the border, which serves mothers with small children who arrive at the border, and also people with disabilities.
- There is food provided, space where children can play, support in arranging transport to other places and countries.
Issues that need addressing:
- Need for registration of people with disabilities.
- Improving accessibility of shelters.
- Access to health services. A lot of people don’t have access to medicines such as insulin.
- Specific nutrition for people with disabilities.
- Accessible information for people with intellectual disabilities.
- For those staying long term, personal assistance, rehabilitation services need to be developed.
In Moldova, like in other countries, most of the support is provided by NGOs.
- Moldova never had a situation like this before, doesn’t have expertise in emergency.
- It is important to be very active, to for example develop similar task force with UN HCR.
In Timisoara, West of Romania, local authorities and NGOs started a “movement for Ukraine”.
- They are looking at how many refugees there are, and what places suitable for them are available.
- Ceva de spus works with them in regards to people with disabilities.
- Ceva de spus collects money for the VGO Coalition. They delivered goods directly to Uzhhorod, to the local member of the VGO Coalition.
The organisation in Uzhhorod told Ceva de spus about the situation in the city:
- Uzhhorod is a city in the West of Ukraine. Many refugees arrive to Uzhhorod, because it is safer there than in the East of the country.
- They need information about what kind of support is available in each country they can go to.
- They need medicines.
- They need wheelchairs. When people leave, they cannot take their wheelchairs with them, especially when they travel by train. So they need wheelchairs in Uzhhorod to provide to people who arrive there.
Many of the refugees try to go back, even to the war affected areas.
- When the war ends,, they will want to go back.
- Romania is mostly a transit country, most people want to continue to other countries.
- For those who will stay, there will be a need to develop new new services for them.
Inclusion Czechia has a stand at the main reception centre in Prague, where they try to reach families of people with disabilities.
- They are there 7 days a week, from 8:00 to 20:00, with interpreters.
- There is very few families: We don’t know whether that is because they are not arriving here, or because we cannot reach them.
- Inclusion Czechia also organise Czech-language coursers for refugees.
Immediate support to refugees is provided by many organisations and people, and it is relatively well organised.
- There are around 300,000 refugees in the country.
For the near future, there are some issues:
- Access to schooling for children with autism, with intellectual disabilities.
- This will become even bigger issue with the new school year in September.
- Other issue is a lack of employment opportunities.
There are over 2,5 million people who arrived in Poland.
- It is not clear how many of them have disabilities?
- Or how many left for other countries?
- After the initial arrivals of around 100 people with disabilities a day, the numbers are lower now.
NGOs are at the forefront providing support to refugees with disabilities.
- There is nothing significant in this regard from the state.
- Regarding the UN and other agencies, we don’t see anything in regards to refugees with disabilities. No working groups, no task forces, no information.
- They provide for refugees in general, but nothing specific to those with disabilities.
- See also similar item from 2 April here.
People with disabilities want to stay in large cities, they don’t want to move to smaller towns.
- In bigger cities, they will have better access to services, rehabilitation.
- There is a big need for accessible housing, and for support for people with complex support needs.
- There may not have a big number of new people coming, but those already here need a longer-term solutions in accessible housing and support.
There is a need for coordinated registration of refugees with disabilities, and for financial support.
- People arriving don’t have any allowance, they lack money for everyday needs.
- If we assume only 1% of the refugees are those with intellectual disabilities, this is still 25,000 people.
- There is no registration at the border for people with disabilities.
VGO Coalition received many forms of support (material, financial, relocation of people) from several organisations and countries. Thank you to everyone!
We need to restart the community based services.
- This will require money for rent, salaries.
- The government needs to provide the money for this. We are appealing to them for this.
There is a lack of services for people with intellectual disabilities.
- This causes burn-out for the care-providers, mostly mother who are of older age, have health issues of their own.
- We need to avoid institutionalisation of people with intellectual disabilities who lost their care-providing relatives in the war.
More on Ukraine:
- News April
- News 15-31 March
- News 22 February – 10 March
- One month of the Russian war on Ukraine in the words of families of people with intellectual disabilities
- “Weeks of horror. And we cannot possibly escape.”
- Donate to help in Ukraine
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