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HEALTHCARE ACCESS FOR UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS

HEALTHCARE ACCESS FOR UNDOCUMENTED MIGRANTS

In the context of the current migration crisis, concerns related to migration management tend to overshadow the actual needs of migrants arriving in Europe. Among these needs, access to healthcare is crucial. Currently, providing access to healthcare is often left to those volunteer-based organizations that normally operate in humanitarian crises.

This paper argues that providing primary healthcare to migrants with a focus on mental health, independently of migrants’ legal status, is legally grounded and economically efficient. Under international and European human rights law, every person has a right to access healthcare. Yet in most European countries this right is granted to asylum seekers and refugees, but not to undocumented migrants, who are entitled only to emergency care. Member States have a common interest in containing national healthcare spending, and reducing expensive emergency treatment and avoiding costs related to mental health treatment can play a role in this. Early treatment and access to basic primary care is not only beneficial for undocumented migrants, but also cost-efficient in the long-term, since it eases demand for emergency care by providing cheaper – and more effective – primary care.

Early treatment is also important for tackling mental health problems. Migrants, frequently exposed to multiple traumas from war and conflicts as well as from travels and resettlement in Europe, face higher risks of mental health disorders. The result can impair physical health and the capacity to integrate into new surroundings. Mental healthcare is consequently crucial, especially for children and unaccompanied minors, who are often the most vulnerable. Budgetary pressures resulting from healthcare expenditures for migrants, who are often on the move, differ from one government to another. Coordinating their responses and sharing costs could prove beneficial to all Member States.

Read the report on ‘Healthcare access for undocumented migrants’

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