Realizing the Right to Health of Undocumented Immigrants in Europe: Legal and Social Challenges


"The subject of the analysis presented in this article is the legal context and political debates regarding access of undocumented migrants to health care assistance and institutions of public health. Consequences of non-regulated legal status significantly impair or even deny illegal migrants the most basic access to medical care. The main condition of entitlement to specialized medical care is legal residence within a state in accordance with its legal provisions. Fearing a growth in illegal migration and increased expenditure, EU countries are not interested in extending social benefits to irregular migrants. Fearing deportation, dismissal from work and the enormous costs of private health care, they usually do not ask for professional medical assistance. By analyzing the most important health risks for migrants the author has also highlighted the current legal and political debates on this issue. Lawful residence based on migration status and rules which governing the welfare state must be coordinated with migrants' access to health care on the basis of universality and non-discrimination. In recent years we have seen a growing tendency in Europe to restrict access to health care for undocumented migrants and reinforce the relationship between access to health care institutions and immigration control policies. In many EU countries such as Sweden and Denmark, the right of undocumented migrants to free emergency care and more advanced health care is restricted and may be subject to payment. Examining international treaties and explanatory documents from the Council of Europe and the United Nations, I try to analyze relevant international laws affecting several groups of undocumented migrants concerning the right to health and access to health care institutions. This article also highlights activities undertaken in recent years by NGOs with the aim of establishing access to health for undocumented migrants in EU countries and placing this issue on the international agenda."



human rights, health