Health is the all-pervasive topic surrounding discussions on regular and irregular migrants, disadvantaged ethnic minorities - including the 10- 12 million Roma currently living in Europe - and other vulnerable groups in Europe. The impoverished physical and social environment and difficulties surrounding their legal status have left many migrants on the fringes of society, with little or no adequate access to health care. In most EU MS only emergency health care is offered to migrants, with a few countries offering secondary care.

Regardless of the legal status or ethnic backgrounds of the people living within its borders, the countries of the EU all guarantee the fundamental human right to health for all, as per Article 13 of the European Social Charter (1960, revised 1996), as well as the overall right to life (Article 2) and prohibition of discrimination on any grounds (Article 14), according to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950). These rights are enshrined in the covenants that all EU countries are signatories to, and the current project focuses on promoting them in all participating countries. However, the practical "barriers of claiming the health care are often so great that the right is largely perfunctory. These barriers include a lack of familiarity with the healthcare system, discrimination by private doctors, lack of documentation, fear of being brought to the attention of the authorities, including the police, location of hospitals and health clinics" and other factors. Specifically for disadvantaged ethnic minorities, including the Roma, the low vaccination coverage raises many concerns for the minority populations, as well as society at large.

A number of policy steps have been taken to improve the situation of Roma, for instance the Commission Communication COM (2011) 173 final of 5 April 2011 on an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020. The communication calls the situation of the Roma in Europe is dire and it calls on the Member States "to ensure that Roma are not discriminated against but treated like any other EU citizens with equal access to all fundamental rights as enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights."

However, the review of the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) did not provide an overall positive picture of efforts in this area. As stated by the Commission Communication COM(2012) 226 final of 21 May 2012 National Roma Integration Strategies: A first step in the implementation of the EU Framework, the situation of the Roma needs to be particularly ameliorated in the fields of education, employment, housing and, above all, health. A review of the National Roma Integration Strategies (NRIS) in five of the founding member countries of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015 reveals that the initiatives undertaken fall short of reaching the stated targets. Thus, access to and use of health provisions remain a common problem for Roma throughout the EU.

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