Written by Nicole Scholz
Europe is currently experiencing an unprecedented influx of refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. European Union Member States are faced with a pressing need to address, among other issues, the resulting public health consequences. The challenges for public health authorities relate to migrants’ individual health problems, whether these affect the resident population, and how to respond adequately to their needs, including providing access to healthcare. The risk of an outbreak of infectious diseases resulting from the arrival of migrant populations is extremely low. These diseases are primarily associated with poverty, and refugees and migrants are exposed mainly to infectious diseases that are common in Europe, independently of migration.
In terms of an immediate public health response, the World Health Organization recommends a triage of migrants, followed by proper diagnosis and treatment targeting specific groups. It advocates full access to high-quality care for all migrants, irrespective of their legal status. In the longer term, it stresses the need to ensure that national health systems are adequately prepared.
The European Parliament has repeatedly emphasised the importance of providing healthcare to vulnerable groups such as migrants, independently of their legal status. The European Commission has mobilised emergency funding and supports projects under the European Union Health Programme. Moreover, it recently introduced the ‘personal health record’ for establishing migrants’ medical needs, to be made available in locations where groups of migrants enter the European Union. In addition, the European Centre for Disease Control has issued expert scientific advice.
Read the complete briefing on ‘The public health dimension of the European migrant crisis‘.