Disability Inclusion: Translating Policy into Practice in Humanitarian Action
Disability Inclusion: Translating Policy into Practice in Humanitarian Action documents positive practices and ongoing challenges to promote disability inclusion across UNHCR’s and its partners’ work in multiple countries and multiple displacement contexts. The report provides lessons and recommendations for other organizations and the wider humanitarian community on engaging persons with disabilities at all levels of humanitarian work. It draws on consultations with over 700 displaced persons—including persons with disabilities, their families, and humanitarian staff—in eight countries. The report includes:
- Key protection concerns of persons with disabilities
- Implementation of UNHCR Guidance on Disability
- Institutionalizing disability inclusion across UNHCR operations
It also includes recommendations for advancing disability inclusion in humanitarian action, specifically tailored for:
- UNHCR: The next steps
- Humanitarian actors: Build on successes
- Disability actors: Expand skills to enhance protection
- Donor governments: Fund technical capacity
In creating Disability Inclusion: Translating Policy into Practice in Humanitarian Action, we gathered information directly from displaced persons with disabilities, as well as humanitarian field staff who work with them. The report highlights their concerns, as well as their ideas and suggestions for making humanitarian programs more accessible to persons with disabilities. It cuts across a variety of humanitarian settings, including urban and camp refugee contexts, internal displacement and complex large-scale crises, such as the Syrian refugee response. Consultations were conducted in eight countries: India (New Delhi), Uganda, Thailand, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Philippines (Mindanao) and Lebanon.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society often work with fewer resources than required. Each of these stakeholders has unique skills, resources, and strengths. Working together to build partnerships, entering into agreements, and establishing routine coordination improves collective responses towards migrants, and prevents duplication of efforts. Such arrangements are best entered into before the next conflict or natural disaster, when stakeholders have the opportunity to anticipate challenges and leverage unique skills and strengths. Joint planning and coordination maximizes resources, improves the effectiveness of responses, and fosters trust between stakeholders. Involving migrants and civil society, who have first-hand knowledge of the specific needs and challenges faced by migrants, can improve the effectiveness of efforts to protect migrants in countries experiencing crises, including at the local, national, regional, or international levels.
These arrangements may relate to a range of activities relevant to the needs of migrants during the emergency phase and its aftermath—from collection of data to information sharing, consular services to identity assessments, awareness-raising to strategic communication plans, provision of humanitarian relief and services to referral systems, capacity-building to evacuation and reintegration assistance, and much more. This may include coordination and information sharing among anti-trafficking experts and humanitarian assistance providers to ensure screening for trafficking and referral to appropriate services. Additionally, by developing systems to identify refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless persons, States can better ensure that these persons are appropriately referred to the available refugee and other protection mechanisms.
Stakeholders can often arrange in advance key services and resources that will be in high demand when a crisis hits, including transportation, shelter, food, health care, and timely and accurate information. Establishing and maintaining clear channels of communication between consular posts and relevant agencies of the host State is important. Such channels of communication could prove critical during crisis situations.
- Pre-arranged agreements among stakeholders, such as agreements between States and international organizations for identity verification, shared use of assets, family tracing, and deployment of experts and humanitarian personnel.
- Multi-stakeholder agreements for relocation and evacuation that set out roles and responsibilities of partners and provide guidance on allocation of costs.
- Cross-border cooperation on crisis preparedness, taking into account particular needs of migrants, especially at a local level for communities that straddle borders.
- Reciprocal consular assistance and representation agreements to address gaps in situations where States do not have a diplomatic or consular presence in a country or have limited capacity
Limited resources, funding, and technical skills can all affect the robustness of emergency and post-crisis responses. Understanding and assessing these limitations is a critical first step towards overcoming them. Stakeholders’ investment in their own capacity to improve emergency response and post-crisis recovery for migrants is critical.
Capacity building may relate to such varied areas as consular services, training for responders, resource allocation, funding mechanisms, insurance schemes, relief goods and services, border and migration management, and relocation and evacuation. Many of these areas are relevant for both the emergency and post-crisis phases. Stakeholders should also consider addressing potential reintegration challenges for migrants, their families, and communities, facilitating re-employment, income generation, and safe remigration, and supporting migrants to access outstanding wages, assets, and property left in host States.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society should assist one another to build and improve their capacity to respond. Undertaking advocacy, monitoring and evaluations, raising awareness, conducting training, sharing information, building research and knowledge, and supporting and learning from each other all help to improve collective efforts to protect migrants.
- Training and capacity building of stakeholders, such as on effective ways to access migrants and identify vulnerability and needs.
- Dedicated funding to protect migrants, including budget lines, loans, and funding platforms.
- Referral mechanisms that map rosters of experts who can address diverse needs of different migrants.
- Peer-to-peer exchanges for capacity building and learning on tackling challenges associated with protecting migrants.
- Training for consular officials, such as on collecting information on citizens and crisis management, including evacuation.
- Monitoring and evaluation of crisis responses that includes analysis of responses towards migrants.
In the collective effort to protect migrants caught in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters, there is no greater imperative than to save lives and alleviate suffering. Humanitarian assistance should be provided to people affected by a conflict or a natural disaster, including migrants, on the basis of need, without discrimination, and regardless of immigration status, nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, or other differentiating characteristics.
Some migrants, just as with affected citizens, may need assistance to address their particular needs and circumstances. Domestic workers and others working in isolated conditions, migrants in an irregular immigration status, and migrants in detention may require specific assistance from States, international organizations, and civil society. Some migrants may be unwilling to leave host States due to incapacitating financial burdens; they may owe money to recruiters or employers. Others may lack access to the necessary financial resources to leave, because their wages are withheld, their employers are unable or unwilling to pay for their return, or they work in exploitative situations. Pregnant women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly may face mobility challenges.
Migrants’ needs will not remain static during the shifting dynamics of a crisis. Organized criminal networks may take advantage of marginalized migrants in a crisis, exacerbating their vulnerability. A change in circumstances in a migrant’s State of origin may compel some people to seek asylum rather than return. Stakeholders should ensure access to asylum procedures in the host State or States of transit. States may consider providing migrants temporary and other forms of humanitarian protection during or in response to a conflict or natural disaster.
- Displacement tracking mechanisms to identify migrant movements and needs.
- Tailored assistance to migrants that take into account needs that may arise from gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, or other characteristics.
- Assessment tools to determine migrant-specific vulnerability and needs, including specialized screening for indicators of human trafficking.
- Targeted action to protect migrant children, including unaccompanied and separated children, and children with parents in an irregular immigration status.
- Services to trace and reunify family members and identify remains and missing migrants.
- Mobile response teams to reach and provide assistance to affected migrants.
- Separation of immigration enforcement from access to humanitarian services to promote access to life-saving assistance especially for migrants who fear authorities.
- Mechanisms to recover outstanding wages.
Certain stakeholders have mandates and unique skills to address the needs of different migrants. Referral procedures can help access these skills for those with particular needs.
Child migrants, for example, benefit from the assistance of actors versed in children’s rights and protection, including dedicated focal points in governments. Interventions targeted at domestic workers or victims of trafficking may benefit from the knowledge and experience of advocates and specialists on those populations. Civil society, such as migrant, grass roots, and faith-based actors, may be best placed to access migrants in an irregular immigration status. Consular officers and some international organizations may have the authority and capacity to assess identities and issue identity and travel documents. Host State local and national actors are often best placed to provide necessary services and international humanitarian actors should strive to provide assistance through local and national systems.
Stakeholders should establish referral procedures to ensure that those responding to the needs of migrants refer refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons to national and international protection mechanisms for those populations.
- Identification and rapid assessment of migrants with specific needs who require referrals to services and assistance.
- Referral of refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons to relevant protection mechanisms.
- Deployment of experts to host States to identify, assess, and address needs of migrants.
- Referrals to international organizations and civil society with specialized experience assisting victims of trafficking, children, and other vulnerable migrants.