WHO calls for better access to care for migrants and refugees

The World Health Organization has published a first report on the health of migrants and refugees in Europe. Their living conditions upon arrival are a threat to their health.

Improving access to care for migrants and refugees in Europe: The World Health Organization (WHO) draws this conclusion in a report published on Monday 22 January. She finds that, in general, migrants and refugees are in good health when they arrive, but their precarious living conditions make them more vulnerable to the disease.

Living conditions favorable to the development of diseases

In its report, the WHO undermines a cliché: migrants and refugees are rarely carriers of disease upon arrival. It is during their journey, or when they stay in a country for a long time in precarious living conditions, that they are most likely to develop certain conditions. This may be due to their lifestyle, poor diet, poor water or the stress of their journey. For example, a large proportion of HIV-positive migrants and refugees have been infected with HIV after arriving in Europe. On the other hand, migrants and refugees are unlikely to develop non-communicable diseases such as cancer or stroke.

Difficult access to care

In many cases, when refugees or migrants fall ill, it is difficult for them to have access to care because of the language barrier, their unregulated situation or because of certain forms of discrimination. The situation is extremely variable from one country to another: in Austria or Turkey, they have the same rights in terms of health as residents. In Germany or Hungary, asylum seekers can only access emergency care. WHO calls on all European countries to put in place policies to ensure that migrants and refugees have access to health services, regardless of their legal status.

A call for better support

The risk of disease transmission between migrants and refugees and residents is very low. But the WHO reminds that the ideal to protect residents remains to better care for refugees and migrants. The benefits of health policies for these populations will necessarily be greater than the cost of care, says the Organization in its report.

In September 2017, Public Health France published a report on the state of health of migrants and refugees in France. The organization already noted the impact of precarious living conditions on the health of these populations.

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