Who is welcome?

Disability + Migration

Migration is often looked at as a siloed issue, separate from other aspects of identity or policy. This includes migrants, including refugees, who have a disability.

Systemic ableism and increasingly restrictive immigration policies can erase migrants with disabilities which ultimately impacts the availability of support services, and their access to it. In addition, ingrained stigma around disability means that some migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, fear how their disability may affect their application or visa extension.

Someone’s experience of disability is determined by multiple factors and potential barriers of society. At MRN, we use the holistic model of disability and acknowledge that disability is a term used for a huge number of conditions and experiences. It also accounts for how intersections such as race and gender affect how people experience disability.

Vulnerability + visibility

Migrants with disabilities are often assumed to be inherently “vulnerable”. 

This is exacerbated by the lack of available data on migrants with disabilities. This lack of information creates a barrier to understanding the full extent of the problem. As a result of this neglect, people working directly with migrants, either as part of the Home Office or an NGO, have reported often not knowing of the existence of migrants with disabilities, particularly asylum seekers.

Deportation + denial of status

Through our Words Matter campaign and wider work on defying the narrative on migration, we interrogate the language of “contribution”, which is often used in pro-migration arguments. The idea that migrants must “contribute” is inherently conditional, and insinuates that in order to be granted protection, migrants must contribute to the economic prosperity of the UK. For migrants with disabilities, the barriers put up by an ableist society impede their full participation in their communities, leaving them especially vulnerable to deportation on these grounds.

In the past, deportations have been legitimised on the basis that someone was not adequately “contributing” to their community. We can see the creeping impact of this in the US, Canada and Australia, the latter of which allows for deportation of entire families if one of them has a disability. 

Who is welcome?

The agency of migrants with disabilities is crucial. Alongside people in our network, we will be exploring how disability intersects with other aspects of their identity in different ways. At MRN, our intersectional approach to migrant justice implores us to highlight and understand their experiences and struggles; we can only achieve migrant justice if we include all migrants. We will therefore be continuing research on the experiences of migrants with disabilities, including input from people in our network, as part of our Who is Welcome campaign.

Download our zine explainer to learn more about migration and disability: click here.

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