VD3 7842 web small

Migration and intra EU mobility remains a key topic in public and political debates across Europe focusing on economic immigration, irregular migrants and the integration of newcomers. Many migrants are not fully integrated, some not at all, and many undocumented migrants are unknown to any governmental and/or public registry as well as social welfare systems, including health services.

At the same time, there were 48.9 million foreign-born residents in the EU in 2011, 9.7% of the total population of the European Union (Eurostat, 2012). It is difficult to estimate the number of those who cross the EU external borders through irregular channels, though the majority of migrants in irregular situation are over-stayers. Combining the hardships faced by many migrants in their countries of origin and throughout their journey with gaps in responsiveness to diversity of receiving health systems, and for some with often prolonged stays in migrant (i.e. detention and/or reception) facilities; it becomes self-evident that migration is one of the main social determinants of migrants’ health. Migrants often face poverty, socio-cultural exclusion and various forms of discrimination, and this can have highly deleterious effects on their well-being. They are found to receive inferior quality of care in comparison to receiving communities due to language barriers, different health beliefs and practices, lack of empathy and cultural sensitivity of the medical personnel to their specific needs and expectations. 

In the case of irregular migrants, the difficulties with regard to their legal status have left many of them on the fringes of society, with little or no adequate access to health care. In most EU member states, only emergency health care is offered to irregular migrants, with only a few countries providing access to primary and secondary care.

Migrants often face poverty, socio-cultural exclusion and various forms of discrimination, particularly in transit and destination countries such as those of the European Union, and this can have highly deleterious effects on their quality of life but also on the health of receiving communities. As recognized by the 61st World Health Assembly, new policies in the area of migrant health need to be multisectoral in scope, taking into account the social, economic, cultural and migratory determinants of migrants' health, while staying mindful of the role of health in promoting social inclusion.