Addressing the migration healthcare challenge

Many people have put their health at risk travelling to and through the EU because of upheavals in their home countries that have led to the current migration situation. The infections, diseases migrants have caught alongside the psychological damage they have suffered pose challenges for healthcare systems of frontline countries. This has been thrown under the spotlight in the latest FRA summary report of migration-related fundamental rights concerns drawing on data from the nine Member States most affected by the migration flows.

Access the monthly data collection highlights and thematic focus on healthcare >>

While the right to health is a basic right, FRA found differences in the provision of healthcare across the nine Member States covered by its monthly data collection. For example:

  • In most Member States, health screenings target asylum seekers; in a few Member States they target all newly-arrived migrants.
  • In some Member States, the health screening only identifies cases of communicable diseases; in others it also identifies individual health needs and people belonging to vulnerable groups.
  • No Member State collects systematic data on the health of newly-arrived migrants and asylum seekers and on their use of the healthcare system.
  • Most Member States do not have specific mechanisms in place to prevent violence against women in reception or detention centres.

Under EU Directives, Member States should provide necessary healthcare which includes, at least, emergency care and essential treatment of illnesses. According to the data collected, a number of healthcare challenges in reception centres were identified. These included: limited entitlements to healthcare; practical/administrative barriers; cost of treatment and/or medicines; limited availability of healthcare professionals; poor sanitation conditions and overcrowded spaces; lack of interpreters.

The data also revealed that the main health issues are skin infections, respiratory diseases, colds and psychological issues. A few countries reported specific health problems affecting migrant children. Maternity care was also an issue in some Member States.

FRA has been collecting data about the fundamental rights situation of people arriving in Member States that have been particularly affected by large migration movements, following a request from the European Commission. The countries covered are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Sweden.

FRA published weekly overviews from September to November 2015 which became monthly from January 2016. Each overview covers a variety of different issues, including:

  • initial registration and asylum applications, with particular attention to the situation of vulnerable people;
  • criminal proceedings initiated for offences related to irregular border crossing;
  • child protection;
  • reception conditions for new arrivals, focusing on the situation of children and other vulnerable people;
  • access to healthcare;
  • public response such as rallies of support, humanitarian assistance or voluntary work;
  • racist incidents such as demonstrations, online hate speech or hate crime.

While this month has a special section looking specifically at healthcare, last month there was a section focusing on children. Next month, FRA will highlight human trafficking and smuggling.