Immigration/health : Illegal Immigrants Excluded from Health Care, Says NGO

Article excerpt

As Europe steps up its fight against illegal immigrants, Medecins du monde (MdM) has released pessimistic findings. Illegal immigrants, and to a lesser extent asylum seekers, are "on the whole excluded from health care," the NGO announced, on 17 December, on the eve of International Migrants Day. Logically, their state of health is not equal to that enjoyed by nationals.

Illegal immigrants suffer from serious illnesses, particularly AIDS: 2.3% of those questioned in seven European countries (Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK) are HIV seropositive, compared to an average of 1% for the European population as a whole, according to a survey published in September 2007 by MdM, which is still valid today. This rate reaches 14% among sub-Saharan Africans, whereas the survey did not identify any cases among immigrants from the Middle East.

The main pathologies concern the digestive and osteoarticular systems, as well as mental illness, along with gynaecological problems for women. These generally stem from complex personal backgrounds that often generate traumatisms, as well as extremely precarious living conditions.

MdM notes that the EU member states do not respect the right of access to health care for everyone, although this right was reaffirmed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in December 2000. In practice, this right is restricted by the conditions set by national laws and practices. "Policies tend to limit these immigrants' access to care, to strengthen controls and to accentuate stigmatisation," the NGO observes. …