7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Vulnerability during the migration process: A health perspective

Vulnerability during the migration process: A health perspective

Rights and social services access for vulnerable categories during the migration process

debate
D1
Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 18:00 to 19:15

Key points

  • The EU’s ‘fortress mentality’ is not preventing migration but creating more dangerous routes that are unofficial and not safe, exposing migrants to exploitation and abuse.
     
  • There is a need for serious resettlement programmes as well as safe corridors and routes providing critical services.
     
  • With migrant women in particular are exposed to many vulnerabilities, including exploitation, sexual violence, and poor access to health, jobs and housing. Women need to be consulted before decisions are taken. The Istanbul Convention needs to be used to protect women from violence.
     
  • More data about migrants needs to be collected to develop better policies and research is needed into so-called ‘invisible vulnerabilities’ such as mental health and high suicide rates.

Synopsis

The debate centred on the risks to migrants’ health during the migration process. One speaker argued that EU leaders’ tough stance on migration had led to Europe becoming a fortress in the sense that systems in the EU have become inaccessible, leading to an atmosphere of rejection.

 

EU policies are focused on keeping people outside Europe and on security and this severely limits the mobility of migrants. It is very hard for migrants to get a work or study visa. However, the speaker argued that this fortress mentality is not really preventing migration, but is creating more dangerous routes that are unofficial and not safe, exposing migrants to exploitation and abuse. The speaker’s argument was that EU policies increase the dangers for migrants and for those using legal routes as living conditions in hotspots are so bad that vulnerabilities are increased.

Another speaker stressed that a negative narrative has taken hold, according to which migrants arriving in Italy are all terrorists bringing diseases, occupying Italian territory and threatening the country’s democracy. The speaker said that nothing was being done to transform this negative narrative because politicians were too afraid to speak up. The speaker also underlined the mental problems, such as post-traumatic stress, that women and children in particular are facing.

With women especially exposed to many vulnerabilities such as exploitation, sexual violence, poor access to healthcare, jobs and housing, another speaker stressed the need to consult the migrant women before decisions are taken and to make use of the Istanbul Convention to protect women from violence.

Another speaker suggested putting aside narratives and focusing on putting facts on the table and on working out what services are needed arising from that research. For example, nine in 10 children arriving in Italy are unaccompanied, whereas nine in 10 arriving in Greece are travelling with their parents. The speaker referred to the need for serious resettlement programmes and safe corridors and routes providing critical services for people along these corridors, especially for people such as breastfeeding women and children. For example, hygiene kits in rucksacks and babycarriers have been distributed to migrants along the Balkan route.

There is too little data about migrants; the data that exists is too fragmented, leading to bad policies. This needs to be addressed. In addition, research is needed into invisible vulnerabilities such as mental health and high suicide rates.

Insight

Efforts to improve security should not divert funds from development aid; primary healthcare should become part of a global approach in which no one can be left behind.

Organised by

    Gonzalo Fanjul
    Policy Director
    Barcelona Institute for Global Health
    Aleix Cabrera
    Communication Officer
    ISGlobal (Instituto de Salud Global de Barcelona)
    Claire Fehrenbach
    Executive Director
    Oxfam France
    Verena Knaus
    Senior Policy Advisor/Migration Focal Point
    UNICEF EU Office
    Agostino Miozzo
    External Relations Manager
    Emergency
    Jara Henar
    Expert in Migration and Mobility
    Alianza por la Solidaridad
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