An estimated 1.2 million people with disabilities are trapped in long-stay institutions in Europe for no justifiable or appropriate reason. People living in institutions are isolated, often abused, and denied basic rights like the rights to education and employment, and the right to live in the community or make decisions about their lives. Despite this, some Central and Eastern European (CEE) Member States of the EU have misused millions of Euros of EU taxpayer money (Structural Funds) to maintain long-stay residential institutions. This is a blatant violation of EU law and it violates the EU’s obligations under Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While there is much rhetoric about the EU’s concern for the rights of people with disabilities, no concrete action has been taken to address this misuse of Structural Funds.
Now is a crucial time, as negotiations are underway to finalize the terms of the EU Cohesion Policy for 2014-2020 which will set out the law governing how Structural Funds can be invested. We need your support. The Open Society Mental Health Initiative (MHI), along with several prominent disability rights groups including Inclusion International, Inclusion Europe, Mental Health Europe, European Coalition for Community Living, European Network on Independent Living, European Platform of Self-Advocates, European Association of Service providers for Persons with Disabilities, Association for Self-Advocacy (Croatia), Association for Promoting Inclusion (Croatia), Ceva de Spus (Romania), Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Institute for Public Policy (Romania), and Pro ACT Suport (Romania), aims to collect signatures from individual European citizens and organizations to bring attention to this urgent issue at the European Parliament. MHI has worked to support the development of community-based alternatives to institutionalization in Central and Eastern Europe for the past 17 years. We believe it is crucial that the European Parliament takes decisive action to stop Member States from investing Structural Funds in institutions. We plan to submit the petition with signatures to the President of the European Parliament’s Petition’s Committee on February, 1, 2013.
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