DAA News Network

Bulgaria, Serbia, Rumania: Disabled people remain trapped in institutions

Posted 28/10-09 at 00.38

An investigation of institutions for people with intellectual and mental health impairments in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, has found evidence of human rights abuses, inhuman and degrading treatment and appalling neglect. Filthy conditions, the use of physical restraints and high-dosage drugs to control behaviour remain routine.

The three countries, all with a grim track record with respect to institutional care, are still failing to meet international standards. Residents are not being treated, so much as controlled. People do not leave their beds for years and children are being kept tied down as a matter of course.

The European Commission has said it may suspend payments under the European Social Fund in case of serious irregularities in Bulgarian and Romanian institutions. However, in practice, Brussels has been ignoring such abuses for years.

For example, Laura Parker, a social policy advisor for the European Commission in Sofia before Bulgaria joined the EU, says: "It is clear the decisions about enlarging the EU were primarily political [and] human rights are simply not an EU priority."

She suggests that European Commission officials edited her reports so that in the end they misrepresented the reality of conditions in Bulgaria. Far from Brussels and the conscience of national governments, institutions housing the most vulnerable in these countries remain no better than dumping grounds.

For many years groups lobbying for reform have argued for deinstitutionalisation. However, according to the Open Society Mental Health Initiative, "none of the new EU member states have concrete plans or financing mechanisms to develop networks of community-based alternatives."

For the full report see: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/23107/

Yana Buhrer Tavanier's photostream, "Dumping grounds for people", which accompanies the report, can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/41740685@N04/sets/72157621997239923

For more information on human rights and mental health and the fight for deinstitutionalisation see: http://www.osmhi.org/

Editorial comment: The issue of institutional segregation is not confined to the east of Europe. For example, more than 1.2 million disabled people are in institutions throughout Europe.

In some countries numbers confined to institutions are increasing and/or conditions becoming more oppressive.

http://www.community-living.info/documents/ECCL_Briefing_COE09_FINAL.doc.

All this is in clear violation of the Article 19 of CRPD which recognizes disabled people's right to live independently in the community.

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