Yesterday I presented a paper at the Migration Law Network Conference ‘A Sea of Troubles’ at Birkbeck University. A wholehearted thanks go to Eddie Bruce-Jones, who was convening the stream and Rebecca Mallett and Katherine Runswick-Cole, for their insights as to how to conceptualise the disabled body. Their most recent work, an exciting monograph entitled Approaching Disability is forthcoming by Routledge.
My paper was entitled ‘The Disabled Body in Refugee Law’. The powerpoint slides are here. The rationale behind my paper was to apply some of the very exciting theories on disability and the body to refugee law. The claim of my paper was that, with a few exceptions, current refugee law and practice views asylum seekers with disabilities as abject. This in turn, mirrors deeply held social and legal practices about disability, which view disability either as tragedy or as something abject, despite the change that the social model of disability has introduced. The way forward in refugee law with regards to asylum seekers with disabilities is to recognise them as persons with potential and the ability to flourish.