The government has been heavily criticised for its decision not to accept the part of the UN disability convention that protects disabled immigrants.
The UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) spoke out after immigration minister Damian Green announced that the government would not be removing the UK’s “reservation” on article 18 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
If there was no reservation, article 18 would recognise the rights of disabled immigrants to the UK not to be discriminated against on the grounds of their impairment.
But the Labour and coalition governments have both kept the reservation in place since the UK ratified the convention in 2009.
Last week, Green said the reservation allowed the coalition to apply its own immigration rules and avoided creating another way for people to challenge immigration decisions.
But he also said the reservation would “preserve the right to safeguard the public purse from excessive demands which may be placed on it”.
UKDPC called on the government to produce the equality impact assessment it should have carried out on the decision so it could demonstrate what these “excessive demands” were.
It said the government had already used the argument of financial necessity to push through its Welfare Reform Act, and accused the government of “using the financial situation of the country against the promotion of disabled people’s rights, whenever possible”.
UKDPC said it was “very disappointed” with Green’s decision, which would “further marginalise disabled people in our community”.
It pointed out that article 18 does not give disabled people any extra rights than under immigration laws, but merely exists to “strengthen existing laws and promote disabled people’s rights”.
A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not believe this decision will marginalise or segregate disabled people.
“The UK already has some of the strongest laws in the world on disability discrimination and this is not affected by the reservation.
“We believe the reservation was necessary to safeguard our ability to apply immigration policies and safeguard the border.”
But he declined to comment on UKDPC’s claim that the government was using the country’s financial situation to attack disabled people’s rights, or on whether the Home Office would produce an impact assessment on its decision.
29 March 2012