Disabled Refugees Welcome -Interview study results


A first Interview study has been carried out by Disabled Refugees Welcome (DRW) using the first ten cases collected by the DRW team.  The interview data was collected from the period November 2017 to February 2018. The participants in this study got in contact with us through field workers informal channels such as church members, friends of friends and referrals from disability organisations. The age of the participants  is between 30 and 45 years, where six are men while four are women. In terms of disability, nine participants have mobility impairments, and one a visual impairment, none of the participants indicated connotative or neuro psychiatric impairments.

Two of the persons arrived through the support of the United Nations quota system. One women arrived by family reunion for marriage, while the remaining seven arrived in Sweden requesting asylum.


People were first contacted and told about the project and asked if they wanted to contribute to the DRW process of gathering information in understanding the asylum process. Then an open interview form was used in communication with the individuals with a logical flow of questions divided into four areas.  Introduction questions were used on personal information and contact details including persons name, age, address and mother language. The second group of questions focus on kinds of impairment, health history, daily needs and technical equipment needs. Questions in the third area were about the migration process and the services provided and whether individuals were satisfied. One question for example is on the access to a medical check-up. The fourth area focuses on social situations, activities and what kind of transport is accessed.

Concluding the interviews people were asked on what support they needed and in which way the DRW team could support them. Requests for support are among others: support to acquire employment, access to the disability transport systems, access to competence development, accessible living arrangements and access to technical equipment.

As the DRW team knows or accesses different languages the interviews could be carried out in the mother tongue of the person when needed such as in Arabic and Amariska.   


The 10 persons covered by this report shared with DRW field workers about their experiences on coming to Sweden, understanding the swedish social and health services and the obstacles they face in order to find a sense of wellbeing, security and positive growth. However the experiences on the support given to the participants in terms of their impairments have both positive and negative aspects depending on the migrations status and the social network, family or previous contact with NGO’s. For instance having a migration status such as asylum seeker impacts tremendously the chances of getting the support in terms of adequate health care and assessments. Asylum seekers do not access some social services until they have acquired a personal number or the refugee status and even then there are long periods to wait due to bureaucracy, lack of information, authorities lacking knowledge on the process and others.  This in its turn with the delays leaves the majority of persons covered by this report to endure long periods of isolation, unaccessible housing, long periods of stress and precarious treatment. This despite the fact that participants already had passed through harsh and dangerous conditions reaching the country and are not well. Another critical aspect found in our inquiry is the time limit for the two year period given within the so called “etablerings paketet”. This defined as to being too short considering the difficult obstacles faced by participants only in order to understand, have access and take part of the swedish wealth fare system regardless participants UN quote refugee status, family visum or asylum status.

Although there are rights and services linked to pre-residence and post-residency status for persons with functional diversity in Sweden all of the interviewed people faced numerous problems and challenges with the lack of understanding accessibility being one challenge that exceeded the others.  Some of the other major challenges expressed by the individuals were:

  • The sense of discrimination on the basis of disability in the family reunion, additional need for support, and additional obstacles during the process of application.
  • Excessive waiting periods due to slow decisions, lack of knowledge from the migration agencies  
  • Lack of understanding by the Department of migration, to provide housing within the cities for disabled refugees to facilitate access to daily life services.
  • Difficulty in obtaining technical equipment such as a wheelchair with those in the asylum process not being able to obtain technical equipment due to lack of a residency permit and the Swedish social security number – “Personnummer”
  • Discriminatory treatment toward disabled asylum seekers by the usage of same bureaucratic process used with abled bodied people. Such as doctors certificate to prove asylum seekers disabilities  even when they are visible.
  • Sense of involuntary isolation and exclusion.
  • Lack of information and communication due to means for communication or problems with language. For instance it was difficult for a participant, a disabled pregnant woman lacking Swedish, to express needs and to receive the relevant support.  
  • Suffering from deterioration in health due to delayed treatment .
  • Difficulty entering the labour market.
  • Problems in obtaining accessible, adequate and decent housing.
  • Problems accessing  transportation.

It was found that people with academic qualifications are also disadvantaged. People had to turn to organisations and social networks for support due to unclear and unstructured legislation and hinders in the access of social services for some newcomers.

The Disabled Refugees Welcome team has been able to get in touch with more disabled newcomers which has enabled us to enrich and disseminate this study in order to get a more nuanced research data and results. We will be updating and generating more complete analysis results in the following months.  If you know people who would be interested in sharing their experiences please write to: kommunication@disabledrefugeeswelcome.se


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