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date: 27 June 2022

Migration, Migrants, and Health in Latin America and the Caribbeanlocked

Migration, Migrants, and Health in Latin America and the Caribbeanlocked

  • Deisy Ventura, Deisy VenturaSchool of Public Health, University of São Paulo
  • Jameson Martins da Silva, Jameson Martins da SilvaSchool of Public Health, University of São Paulo
  • Leticia CalderónLeticia CalderónInstituto Mora
  •  and Itzel EguiluzItzel EguiluzInstituto de Investigaciones Económicas, UNAM

Summary

The World Health Organization has recognized health as a right of migrants and refugees, who are entitled to responsive healthcare policies, due to their particular social determinants of health. Migrants’ and refugees’ health is not only related to transmissible diseases but also to mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes. Historically, however, migration has been linked to the spread of diseases and has often artificially served as a scapegoat to local shortcomings, feeding on the xenophobic rhetoric of extremist groups and political leaders. This approach fosters the criminalization of migrants, which has led to unacceptable violations of human rights, as demonstrated by the massive incarceration and deportation policies in developed countries, for example, the United States under the Trump administration.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular, there have been legal developments, such as pioneering national legislation in Argentina in 2004 and Brazil in 2017, which suggest some progress in the direction of human rights, although in practice drawbacks abound in the form of countless barriers for migrants to access and benefit from healthcare services in the context of political turmoil and severe socioeconomic inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and enhanced the effects of such inequality in the already frail health conditions of the most disenfranchised, including low-income migrants and refugees; it has both caused governments in Latin America to handle the crisis in a fragmented and unilateral fashion, ignoring opportunities to cooperate and shield the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, and served as a pretext to sharpen the restrictions to cross-border movement and, ultimately, undermine the obligation to protect the dignity of migrants, as the cases of Venezuela and the U.S.-Mexico border illustrate. Still, it could represent an opportunity to integrate the health of migrants to the public health agenda as well as restore cooperation mechanisms building on previous experiences and the existing framework of human rights organizations.

Subjects

  • Global Health
  • Public Health Policy and Governance
  • Special Populations

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