page icon


Bridging a Protection Gap: Disability and the Refugee Convention

Jennifer Blair
David Neale

This report draws together information regarding the interaction between disability and claims under the 1951 Refugee Convention. It also briefly looks at subsidiary forms of legal protection. This report has been prepared based on legal and clinical experience within England and Wales in particular, but may be of wider relevance to those working to apply the Refugee Convention in other jurisdictions.

Written work on disability in this field has often focused on practical inclusivity rather than on the legal standards for protection. Without specific analysis and guidance there is a risk that disability, which can also intersect with other characteristics where people may experience discrimination, may be overlooked and the issues involved left ‘invisible’. This document is intended as legal interpretive guidance for decision-makers, practitioners and the judiciary working with people in this field.

The authors of this report are Jennifer Blair of the Helen Bamber Foundation and David Neale from Garden Court Chambers. The authors would like to thank Jenni Whitaker, research assistant for this publication, and the doctors, clinical psychologists, lawyers and counter-trafficking experts at the Helen Bamber Foundation who have provided advice on this publication alongside Asylos, the Asylum Research Centre and Dr S Chelvan, a barrister who attends the Home Office National Asylum Stakeholder Forum Equalities Subgroup and has acted in disability-based protection claims.

Whilst this report was in the process of being drafted the case of DH (Particular Social Group: Mental Health) Afghanistan [2020] UKUT 223 (IAC) was handed down by the Upper Tribunal. The authors of this report would like to express gratitude to those involved with that case, particularly Ali Bandegani from Garden Court Chambers, whose arguments, relied on in the judgment, we have also referenced in this publication.

A Preface is given by Sir Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights, and Trustee of the Helen Bamber Foundation.