From file: Migrants rescued at sea arrive at the port of Malaga in Southern Spain - credit: EPA/Carlos Diaz
From file: Migrants rescued at sea arrive at the port of Malaga in Southern Spain - credit: EPA/Carlos Diaz

The Spanish Parliament approved a draft law to restore free healthcare to migrants without papers. The right had been removed in 2012 by the former conservative government.

Refugees and migrants without identification in Spain are again entitled to free health services. The draft law was approved Thursday with a majority of 177 votes in favor and 133 against.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had introduced the measure shortly after he came to power in June. The draft law grants undocumented migrants access to public health "under the same conditions as people who have Spanish nationality."

"Health does not know borders, identity papers, or work permits," Health Minister Carmen Monton told lawmakers before the measure was voted on. Conservative lawmaker Teresa Angulo, however, accused the government of "opening wide the doors of Spain to health tourism".

Restrictions eliminated

The draft law eliminates the need to hold a Social Security card and dispenses with the requirement to sign up on the municipal register before being allowed to access health services in Spain, the Spanish newspaper El País reported.

Furthermore, the existing 90-day period in which immigrants have a limited access to many health services may now be reduced or eliminated altogether. Migrants would be able to seek assistance at local health centers immediately after arriving in the country.

The former conservative government of Mariano Rajoy had withdrawn the right to public healthcare for undocumented migrants in 2012 as part of a program,of spending cuts as Spain grappled with a financial crisis, AFP reported.

Several regional governments responded by giving undocumented migrants access to healthcare and created own regulatory frameworks. Rajoy's government in 2015 reinstated access to emergency healthcare.

Spain has become the main entry point for migrants arriving in Europe, after Italy and Greece. Over 33,000 migrants have arrived in Spain by sea and land so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.


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