Migrants hosted by reception centres in Naples. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA CIRO FUSCO
Migrants hosted by reception centres in Naples. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA CIRO FUSCO

The results of a commission created by the scientific journal "The Lancet" together with University College of London (UCL) showed that "harmful, unfounded myths are used to justify policies of exclusion" towards migrants. The study highlights that migrants are not disease carriers or a burden on services.

The University College of London-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health, established by the influential scientific journal together with the London-based university, released a report that challenges stereotypes, such as that migrants are a burden on public services and that they are disease carriers. 

The report said the myths are harmful and unfounded. It said they are often used to justify policies of exclusion. In 2017, 258 million people migrated to a country other than their country of origin, and the majority of them are workers. 

Data on migrants' health 

A new systematic review using 96 previous studies, comprising an analysis of the data of 15.2 million migrants from 92 countries, revealed that migrants were sick less and had lower mortality rates for cardiovascular diseases, tumors, brain diseases and respiratory diseases. They were shown to have higher rates of infections such as viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, and HIV, but an elevated risk of infection was found only within migrant communities and was negligible in host populations. 

"The stereotype of migrants as disease carriers is perhaps one of the most prevalent, and the most harmful," the researchers said. "However, there is no systematic association between migration and importation of infectious diseases, and the evidence shows that the risk of transmission from migrating populations to host populations is generally low."

Migrants strengthen health services 

The impact that migrants have on health systems is not a burden, as some may think. Migrants constitute a substantial proportion of the health care workforce in many high-income countries. For example, in the UK, 37 percent of doctors received their medical qualification in another country. 

"Our analysis suggests migrants are healthier, and, in high-income countries, make up a large portion of the healthcare workforce," said Commission Chair Professor Ibrahim Abubakar of UCL. The Lancet editor Dr. Richard Horton said, "In too many countries, the arguments that migrants are a health risk and a burden on health system are myths used to drive anti-immigrant sentiment and advance a populist agenda." 

The Commission urged governments to "improve migrants' access to services and strengthen their right to health" also "through adopting a zero-tolerance approach to racism and discrimination". 

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