Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities reviews initial report of Greece, asks about situation of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities

from UN Human Rights Council
Published on 04 Sep 2019 View Original

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this morning concluded its consideration of the initial report of Greece on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, during which the Committee Experts queried the delegation on a range of issues, including the situation of refugees and asylum seekers with disabilities, slow progress on the deinstitutionalization process and involuntary psychiatric treatment, measures to protect women with disabilities from violence and abuse, and the denial of legal capacity for persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities.

The arrival of a great number of people escaping the horrors of war in the Near East, combined with the economic hardship caused by the collapse of the financial system, had strained the Hellenic State and its society to the breaking point, the Experts recognized.

Refugees and asylum seekers, particularly those with disabilities, desperately needed the help and support of Greece, which indeed played a critical role. The Committee was worried about the conditions under which they were housed on the islands and in the border centre in Evros - overcrowding and lack of reasonable accommodation, accessibility of asylum procedures, education of refugee children, and the socioeconomic situation.

The delegation recalled that more than one million people had entered Greece in 2015 and 2016 and that, together with the European Union and other partners, the State had done its utmost to address this situation. It stressed that no country could stand alone and manage this kind of pressure, and outlined steps taken to identify refugees and migrants with disabilities and to ensure that they were adequately protected.

The institutionalization of persons with disabilities, especially children, was a great source of concern for the Committee, which raised question on systemic changes that were adopted towards the full and complete deinstitutionalization of all children with disabilities and the realization of their right to a life in a family and community.

Although the framework for combatting direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of disability was in place, Greece should take concrete legislative measures to recognize the denial of reasonable accommodation as direct discrimination and do away with laws that still contained discriminatory provisions such as those pertaining to social protection and social assistance, Experts said.

Matthildi Chatzipanagiotou, Special Advisor to the Minister of State of Greece, introducing Greece’s report, provided an overview of the status of implementation of the Convention in Greece, noting that the input by the Greek Commission for Human Rights, the Greek Ombudsman, and the National Confederation of Disabled People of Greece represented a valuable compass for the urgent and significant work ahead.

The new Government of Greece, sworn in on 9 July 2019, had set as an absolute priority the adoption of a national strategy for the effective response to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and the protection of their rights, Ms. Chatzipanagiotou said. The increased awareness of the society and the recovery from the economic crisis would allow the country to deliver upon its legal obligations and national strategy commitments.

The Greek National Commission for Human Rights called upon the Government to develop a coherent and reliable legal framework applicable to all persons with disabilities. A serious concern remained about children with disabilities, the elderly, and persons with intellectual disabilities in the framework of deinstitutionalization policies and programmes.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Chatzipanagiotou, the head of the delegation of Greece, concurred with the Experts on the need to, inter alia, complete the deinstitutionalization process, address violence against women and girls with disability, protect refugees and migrants with disability, expand the participation of persons with disabilities in public and political life, and fully adopt the human rights based model of disability.

The delegation of Greece was composed of the representatives of the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Citizen Protection, Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment and Energy, Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation, Ministry of Tourism, the Secretariat General for Communication and Media, and the Permanent Mission of Greece to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage, where the concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Greece will be available at the end of the session on 20 September.

The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed here.

Thursday, 5 September is an official holiday at the United Nations Office at Geneva. The Committee will meet in private on Friday, 6 September and will hold its next public meeting on Monday, 9 September at 3 p.m., when it will start its consideration of the initial report of Kuwait (CRPD/C/KWT/1).