Migrants don’t spread disease, their health deteriorates after arriving in Europe, says WHO

Migrants and refugees to Europe are generally in good health, but are at risk of getting sick on the road or in a new country due to poor living conditions. This is revealed in a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO). At the same time, there is little risk that new entrants will spread infectious disease, refuting WHO’s widespread belief in its report. Pointing out that migrants and refugees do not place a disproportionate burden on health systems, the organization called on European countries to provide refugee health care based on facts and not on political grounds or prejudice.

“This report is a great opportunity to dispel false myths and misperceptions (related to refugees),” said Santino Severoni, who WHO dealing with health and migration in the European region.

“Health has become highly politicized and used as a tool to increase fear. However, this report is based on solid data from our Member States,” he added.

Asylum seekers are prevented from accessing health care because of language barriers and fear of deportation. Several European governments have barred them from seeking asylum. Discrimination, ignorance of local conditions and lack of money also prevent people living illegally in some European countries from accessing basic health care, the WHO said.

According to the report, migrants make up ten percent, or 90.7 million people, of the population European region. However, WHO also includes Central Asian countries and Georgia with Armenia. Of this number, only less than 7.4 percent can qualify as refugees. Residents of some European countries believe they have three to four times as many migrants as they actually do.

In 15 countries in the defined territory – Austria, Turkey and the UK, among others, asylum seekers have access to the same health services as domestic residents. But in Germany and Hungary, for example, they can’t go to the emergency room.

The report also shows that non-communicable diseases are less common among migrants and refugees on arrival compared to the domestic population. However, if they live in poverty in a new country, they are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer, or stroke. Lifestyle changes, such as lack of exercise and poor diet, also contribute to a high incidence of chronic disease.

Migrants and refugees report depression and anxiety more frequently than domestic residents. They are more likely to have diabetes, especially women. Men are then more likely to have accidents at work. Unaccompanied teens are often sexually abused.

Reuters reported a WHO report published in The Lancet in December. There too, a team from UCL University in London concluded that refugees generally enjoy better health than the populations of the rich countries they are to.

The populist claim that migrants pose a health risk and burden the health system is a baseless myth designed to stimulate anti-immigration sentiment, the study said.

Julia Craig

"Certified bacon geek. Evil social media fanatic. Music practitioner. Communicator."

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