Migration, Displacement and Disability: A Human Rights Response
17 - 18 November 2022
About the conference
The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, hosts an annual conference on disability rights in an African context during the month of November. The inaugural disability rights conference was held in 2013. The annual conference serves as a platform for convening dialogue amongst key stakeholders on disability rights, and to spotlight pertinent and emerging disability rights concerns in the African region.
In 2022, the conference theme is ‘Migration, Displacement and Disability in Africa: A Human Rights Response
The main focus of the conference will be on respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling the rights of persons with disabilities who migrate or are displaced. The conference has two main objectives: 1) to critically appraise laws, policies, practices, programmes, polities and ideologies that relate to migration and displacement of persons with disabilities in Africa and 2) to suggest remedial responses (domestically, regionally and globally) to address violations of the rights of persons with disabilities as migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The conference will be convened by the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa, on 17 and 18 November 2022. It is anticipated that authors will rework papers presented at this conference.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ushered in a transformative human rights approach to disability. It constitutes a shift from a medical to a social model of disability. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disability (the African Disability Rights Protocol) has followed suit. Under article 4 and article 18(1), respectively, the CRPD provides for the liberty of movement, right to choose and right to the residence to persons with disabilities. Article 11 of CRPD also calls for States Parties to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.
The African Disability Rights Protocol and the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention) contain several provisions that can be used to advance the respect, protection and, ultimately, fulfilment of the rights of persons with disabilities in situation of risks. Notably, they require States Parties to protect the rights of all persons including disabled persons against being arbitrarily displaced and, in so doing, to respect provisions of international law that are relevant for the protection of IDPs.
Persons with disabilities who migrate or are displaced experience numerous violations of their human rights. Environmental disasters and conflict situations in Africa and across the globe serve as push factors for the migration and displacement of people. They create situations of risk to persons with disabilities, severely hindering mobility. Many are left behind in situations with little access to health care or rehabilitation or support services, lack of carers and exposure to violence. Some are forced to move, becoming internally displaced persons living in IDP camps. Others are forced to travel to other countries, risking being declared illegal or subjection to restrictions of personal liberty without access to basic services. Those who move are also at risk of losing documents that are essential to their survival.
Wars, conflict and environmental disasters that cause people to migrate are major cause of impairment and impoverishment. Forced migratory passage impacts adversely on persons with disabilities as they flee or attempt to reconstruct their lives in new places.
Persons with disabilities who have fled their residences and countries for reasons related to an armed conflict and who find themselves in a destination country that is at peace are protected under international humanitarian law (IHL), specifically provisions of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. For instance, IHL contains several provisions that justify differential treatment based on a person’s state of health, age, sex or rank. Notwithstanding, there is a North-South disparity in protections for a number of reasons. Comparatively, migrants or displaced people of colour from the Global South experience greater personal risks but enjoy fewer protections than their northern counterparts as the war in Ukraine has reminded us.
Although much has been written and documented on migration and the movements of people within and across national borders, very little has been written on the intersection between disability, migration and displacement. This paucity is evident also across disciplines. In the light of environmental disasters, wars and conflict, food shortages, and environmental degradation, disability justice should be an integral part of the conversation on issues concerning migration and displacement in the African Region. Disability scholarship has yet to extensively engage with the predicament of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced with disabilities across a range of geopolitical spaces.
Against this backdrop, the convenors of the conference invite abstracts (and, eventually, papers developed from accepted abstracts) that are aimed at identifying and providing remedial responses to violations of the rights of persons with disabilities who are under migration, who have migrated or who have been displaced. The parameters of an abstract can be at a country level, sub-regional level, regional level and/or global level or a combination of these levels. What is crucial is that abstracts should address African needs, taking into account relevant human rights and international humanitarian law frameworks.
The conference seeks to bring together stakeholders interested in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities who are under migration, migrated, or displaced. The prevailing violations against the rights of persons with disabilities is partly due to limited laws, policies, practices, programmes, polities and ideologies that protect disabled IDPs and migrants in Africa. The bulk of current research, published commentaries and activism on migration and displacement of people addresses the global north. There is a particular need to contextualise the experiences of the African region and bring them to the public domain for debate and exchange of ideas that speak to the locale rather than merely reproduce discourses from the Global North.
Possible topics to consider
Topics of particular interest include but are not limited to the following:
- Causes of migration and displacement among persons with disabilities in the Global South
- Experiences of persons with disabilities during exodus and post-conflict/humanitarian contexts
- Rights of persons with disabilities during exodus and post-conflict/humanitarian contexts
- Place of civil society and non-governmental organisations in promoting the rights of migrants and IDPs with disabilities
- Place of domestic human rights institutions in promoting the rights of migrants and IDPs with disabilities
- Courts and tribunals and the rights of migrants and IDPs with disabilities
- Intersections of disability, race, culture, poverty, gender and legal status in the migration process
- Intersection of migration, disability and gender non-conformity
- Intersection of migration, disability and sexual minorities
- Intersection of migration, disability and intersex
- Asylum, disabled bodies, and (re)construction of disabled lives across borders
- Globalisation, neoliberalism and the role of migrant and IDPs with disabilities in contemporary imperialism
- Racism, xenophobia and the position of migrants or IDPs with disabilities
- Medicalisation and treatment of migrants and IDPs with disabilities in Africa
- Migrants and IDPs with disabilities in policy and practice: critical analyses
- Migrants and IDPs with disabilities in resettlement
- Migrants and IDPs with disabilities, voice, and claims for social justice
As part of underscoring the importance of multi-sectoral responses and partnerships in the production of knowledge, we particularly encourage joint abstracts between scholars, policymakers and persons with disabilities together with their representative organisations.
A committee will review abstracts that are written in English, are 300-350 words in length and in MS Word format (not PDF).
Abstracts must include in a single document:
- Title of abstract
- Author’s name
- E-mail address
Submission deadline for abstracts:
30 June 2022
Authors will be notified by 15 July 2022 whether their abstract has been accepted.
Submission deadline for Papers:
28 October 2022 Authors whose abstracts are accepted will be required to submit their full papers by 28 October 2022.
For more information on the 10th Annual Disability Rights Conference please contact:
For more information on the Disability Rights Unit, please contact:
Tel: +27 (0)12 420 6398