Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

Migrants aboard the Sea-Eye rescue ship, in the Mediterranean Sea, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2018. (File/AP)
Updated 21 January 2019

Migrants need better access to health care in Europe: WHO

  • In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10% of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants
  • In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population

COPENHAGEN: Europe must guarantee migrants better access to health care, the World Health Organization urged Monday in its first report on the health of new arrivals to the old continent, where accessibility varies broadly.
“The most important is the access to health services. To improve their health, it is important to fill the gap for access to basic care,” Santino Severoni, the head of the WHO’s Migration and Health Programme, told AFP.
In WHO’s Europe region, which covers 53 countries, migrants represent almost 10 percent of the population, or 90.7 million of 920 million inhabitants.
But the proportion of migrants varies widely from country to country, accounting for 45 percent of Malta’s population to just two percent in Albania.
Depending on the country and migrant status, they may enjoy full access to the health care system or none at all.
In 15 European countries, such as Austria, Turkey and Britain, asylum seekers have access to the same care as the local population, whereas in Germany and Hungary they are only entitled to emergency care.
“People, and some governments, have been reacting emotionally when it comes to newcomers because of the lack of information and data,” Severoni said.
Contrary to what some may believe, “there is a very low risk ... of transmitting communicable disease from the refugee and migrant population to the host population,” he said.
For example, a large share of HIV-positive migrants contract the disease after arriving in Europe.
In addition, new arrivals are more likely to develop chronic illnesses as a result of their new lifestyle — such as less physical activity and too much fast food — and the poverty conditions some encounter.
While they are at lower risk of developing cancer than local populations — with the exception of cervical cancer — cancer tends to be diagnosed at a later stage, which makes the prognosis less certain.
Migrants’ children are meanwhile at greater risk of being overweight and having psychological problems than children in their host country, the report noted.


China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

Updated 16 December 2019

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

  • The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday
  • The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections

BEIJING: China’s premier told beleaguered Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday that she had Beijing’s “unwavering support” after a huge rally earlier this month and her government’s thrashing at recent local elections.

The city has been upended by six months of massive pro-democracy protests that have seen violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.

Protesters have called for the unpopular Lam to stand down as leader, but Li Keqiang said Beijing would give “unwavering support” to her government to maintain the “long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

“The central government fully recognizes the efforts you and the SAR (special administrative region) government have paid,” said Li, at a meeting with Lam in the Hong Kong Hall of the imposing Great Hall of People in Beijing.

He said Lam’s government had “tried its best to maintain social stability” amid “an unprecedentedly severe and complicated situation.”

But he also called for the Hong Kong government to “step up studies of the deep-seated conflicts and problems that hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development” in order to restore calm to the city.

“Hong Kong is yet to get out of its plight. The SAR government must continue its hard work, stop violence and subdue chaos according to laws and restore order,” Li told Lam.

The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday.

At the meeting with Li, she said she was grateful for the premier’s “care for Hong Kong.”

The semi-autonomous city is ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives the territory rights unseen on mainland China — rights protesters say are steadily being eroded.

The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections.

A week ago, around 800,000 people marched peacefully through the city’s streets, urging the government to respond to their five demands — which include an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.

But public anger remains as Beijing and Lam show no sign of giving further concessions despite the election success.

This weekend the relative calm was broken by clashes between black-clad pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police in some of the city’s shopping malls.

And earlier this week an international panel of experts hired to advise Hong Kong on the police response to protests announced they were quitting, saying the watchdog was not fit for purpose “in a society that values freedoms and rights.”