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Asylum-Seekers and Refugees with Intellectual Disabilities in Europe (Easy-to-Read)

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This is a picture taken from the Special Olympics Unified Sports floorball match in Cyprus. Participants included migrants and local Cypriots.
July 20, 2018

Co-authored by Meghan Hussey, Special Olympics

People with an intellectual disability (ID) understand information better when it is in easy-to-read format. This allows people with ID to become informed and empowered with information they may not have previously been able to fully comprehend. The easy-to-read format makes information more accessible for those who have trouble reading or are not native speakers of the language the information is written in. To read the full version, click here.

Many people from North Africa and the Middle East are leaving their homes. Since 2015, almost 1.5 million have moved to Europe for a better life. Their homes in North Africa and the Middle East are not safe now. There are groups in their countries who have killed many people. People are moving to Europe because they are scared. The people who have moved to Europe to escape the violence are called migrants.

Governments in Europe are not working together to best help the migrants. Some Europeans do not want migrants in their country. Europeans feel afraid that the migrants will bring violence to Europe. Migrants may be badly treated because some Europeans think they are dangerous. However, these migrants are in search of a safer home in Europe. The conditions for many migrants in Europe are bad. Migrants stay in camps before they are allowed to move to a new home in Europe. These camps have too many people in them. There are not enough resources to take care of everyone.

Some migrants have an intellectual disability (ID). They are isolated even more than other migrants. This is because most people do not know enough about ID. They think people with ID can’t do many things. They may have bad ideas about a person with ID. However, this is wrong. People with ID are capable and powerful. They deserve equal treatment. They deserve respect, support, and access to resources.

Migrants often cross through Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, or Spain to get to Europe. There is no procedure to identify migrants with ID in these countries. However, there are procedures to identify migrants with disabilities. This is good because migrants with all disabilities need to be identified. But it is important for there to be a procedure that focuses on ID.

The available services for migrants may not be able to help people with ID. Doctors and nurses may not know how to provide care to a person with ID. They do not receive enough training in this area.

We need to raise awareness about ID. More people should know about what ID is and meet people with ID. This will also help people learn about how to best support others with ID. Special Olympics is an organization that supports people with ID.

Special Olympics uses sports as a tool to change bad attitudes about ID. Special Olympics provides opportunities for people with and without ID to play together through Unified Sports. In Unified Sports, people become teammates and friends with people who are different from them.

Special Olympics also provides health screenings and supports families. Click here to learn more about Special Olympics. Special Olympics has used Unified Sports to reach out to migrants. In 2017, Special Olympics clubs in Malta and Cyprus invited migrants to play a floorball match with them. This helped raise awareness about ID in migrant communities. Now migrants may not think negatively about ID. This also created a space for European communities to better understand the situation of migrants. Now Europeans may not feel scared of migrants. By playing together, they got to know each other.

This is a picture taken from the Special Olympics Unified Sports floorball match in Cyprus. Participants included migrants and local Cypriots.

Two other organizations have raised awareness about migrants with disabilities. These are Human Rights Watch and the European Disability Forum. They told the European Parliament to make sure there is money for programs that support migrants with disabilities. This raises awareness about all disabilities, not just ID. However, this is a good step because people with all disabilities face barriers.

Human Rights Watch made a video that shows the barriers migrants with disabilities face in Europe. Click here to watch the video.

European governments and organizations need to support migrants with ID. They need to work together to make a plan. Then they must take action.

All people should learn about migrants with ID. Understanding the issues they face may lead to positive change. To learn more about this topic, watch the videos below:  

To learn more about migrants in Europe today:

“The Way Point: A visual journey through Lesbos, the gateway to Europe”:

To learn more about ID and the work of Special Olympics: