Brussels, 18 May 2015 – - The European Commission released its European Agenda on Migration (1) on Wednesday 13 May. EPHA welcomes that action is finally being stepped up and more funding being made available, but warns that health requires further support. Health concerns – of migrants and of receiving countries’ populations - are notably absent in the agenda, which merely mentions the need to support ‘reception and capacity to provide healthcare to migrants in the Member States under particular pressure’.
Many of the migrants arriving in Europe, particularly those having made the hazardous crossing of the Mediterranean by boat, are in need of urgent medical and psychological attention. For the moment, it is charities that are providing much of the badly needed healthcare in reception centres. Further practical and financial support is needed from European governments for healthcare and medicines, but also in particular to improve poor conditions in reception centres. Moreover, many migrants in Southern Europe end up homeless.
‘The European Migration Agenda misses the mark by omitting health,’ says Sascha Marschang, EPHA’s Policy Manager for Health Systems ‘the proposed quotas are a drop in the ocean given the numbers of people escaping war and persecution. Their urgent health needs are being overlooked. It is Europe’s duty to provide universal access to healthcare, especially for the most vulnerable people in the greatest need.’
Covering both undocumented and ‘highly qualified’ migration, the Commission’s Agenda comes in response to a particularly deadly period for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean. The Commission calls for greater collaboration and solidarity between Member States to manage migration flows including sharing responsibility for migrants via a mandatory quota system for the dispersal of recent arrivals across all member states, and a future EU-wide resettlement programme for 20,000 migrants.
Yet the bulk of the announced actions are aimed at ensuring that migrants will reach European shores in far fewer numbers. The focus is largely on strengthening Europe’s external borders through increased sea patrols and security operations, including boosting Frontex operations and military deployment aimed at dismantling traffickers’ networks.
Although EPHA welcomes the Commission’s plea for a less ad hoc approach to migration, it appears unlikely that all Members States accept the proposed redistribution quotas. Those countries that can - the UK, Denmark and Ireland - are likely to make use of existing ‘opt-out’ provisions, thereby weakening a unified response.
Notes to editors
(1) European Commission, 13.5.15 COM(2015)240 final, A European Agenda on Migration
Sascha Marschang, Policy Manager for Health Systems: firstname.lastname@example.org / +32(0)2 233 3883