Standing up for migration

The Lancet
Jan 26, 2019  Volume 393Number 10169p295-376, e3-e4

Standing up for migration
The Lancet
WHO issued a report on the health of refugees and migrants in the WHO European Region on Jan 21, 2019. The report aims to provide an overview of the current health situation for refugees and migrants across the 53 countries of the region, by providing an evidence base for the approximately 258 million migrants in the area.

The report notes that “there are no global or region-wide indicators or standards for refugee and migrant health”. Although the global volume of refugees and migrants has remained relatively stable since 1990 (from 2·8% of global population then to 3·3% now), there has been a sharp rise in the proportion of displaced people over the same period, from five in 1000 in 1997 to nine in 1000 in 2017. This sizable population demands separate consideration, in part because their health concerns need promoting and defending in the face of increasing xenophobia across Europe.

Persistent myths about migrants and refugees have been allowed to propagate unchallenged in political discourse. Our recent Commission on Migration and Health highlighted some of these. Migrants contribute more to the wealth of host societies than they cost, and migrants have lower mortality than their host populations.

This new WHO Report and the recent Compact on Global Migration represent positive moves in an area of global health featuring some of the world’s most maligned and at-risk populations. Too often, however, the voices of the migrants and refugees themselves are silenced in the conversation. Migrants and refugees clearly have vital contributions to make in the debate over their treatment and health, but, frustratingly, the dialogue surrounding them seems limited to those in positions of institutional power. We urge political leaders to privilege migrants as essential participants in the public conversation about their important contributions to the health of our societies.