Health is an essential factor to enable orderly, safe, regular, and humane migration. Yet health remains at the margins of decisions making in migration governance, with decision usually made within ministries of interior, foreign policy, and immigration. There is typically limited engagement from health authorities beyond issues concerning health security, quarantine, and border-health management. Thus, migration policies do not address the inherent social determinants of migration and health.
Migration and health is largely overlooked at high-level discussions on sustainable development, despite sustained lobbying by some UN agencies and governments. Many countries have explicitly stated before international human rights bodies that they cannot, or do not wish to, ensure health protection, including the provision of essential health services to migrants, and especially to irregular migrants.
Only three out of 21 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region included migrant groups within their national pandemic preparedness plans. Country reports on achievements towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) provide scarce evidence of migrant inclusion. The rhetoric of “leaving no one behind” is futile if migrant populations are restricted in their abilities and rights to access affordable health services. Protecting citizen rights should not exclude those of the non-citizens. Extending coverage to irregular migrant workers and asylum seekers not only promotes better public health but also reduces costs to health systems.
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