GMPA: Global Migration Policy Associates

Migration Topics

(Research papers and policy briefs below)

Health and access to health care for all migrants are fundamental issues for migration policy. All persons have rights and need for health care and well-being. This fundamental principal is not only a matter of human rights and the rule of law. It is a fundamental public health policy challenge. Disease knows no borders; excluding anyone present in a given population or locality from access to preventative and curative health care is, simply put, a recipe for disaster. It is an issue of decent work, notably in assuring safety and health at the workplace, necessary in turn to reduce the high economic and social costs of accidents, injuries and sickness deriving from poor conditions of work - often especially poor where migrants are employed.

Health issues for migrant populations have long been acknowledged as public health concerns, although rarely addressed with adequate attention or resources. Increasing international mobility, and growing political and media attention to migration spotlight health dilemmas facing migrants. Many migrants living temporarily or permanently outside their countries of origin have restricted access - sometimes none at all - to public health services and health insurance. This is especially the plight of irregular or unauthorized migrants.

Public health risks posed by migrants with communicable diseases and untreated sicknesses or injuries have long been recognized. Less visible but of great concern are the multiple problems faced by migrant workers and families exposed to toxic substances, high risk of workplace injuries and unhealthy working conditions with little or no access to prevention and care. Migrants are typically asked to accept positions that local workers refuse and are frequently assigned to mining, construction, heavy manufacturing, and agricultural tasks that can expose them to a range of occupational risks, including toxic agents, long hours, and little if any protection in terms of clothing and hazardous equipment. Linguistic obstacles, poor communication, lack of familiarity with modern machinery, and different attitudes to safety are all factors that increase the work related risks. Migrant workers, in particular undocumented migrant workers, often tolerate dangerous conditions without protest for fear losing their jobs or being deported. Lack of familiarity with the country, the culture and the language also means that migrant workers are typically unaware of safety and health protections or their rights.

A World Health Assembly Resolution in 2009 and a first global conference on health and migrants organized by WHO and IOM in Madrid in 2010 highlighted the importance of health in migration on both public health and migration policy agendas. Data, research and policy advocacy are urgently required; GMPA associates are involved in research and policy advisory activities; we work with an emerging international network of practitioners and policy experts to expand and extend public health and occupational health and safety policy and practice to all migrants.


Focal Point Contacts

Patrick Taran

Documents and Papers

Coming soon (updated 18 December 2015)