- Meeting abstract
- Open Access
Undocumented children’s health – key challenges and local responses
© LeVoy and Keith; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014
Published: 11 August 2014
Every European Union member state has legal obligations to protect the rights of the child. Nevertheless, there are children in Europe that face significant barriers to accessing even essential health services, due to their or their parent’s migration or residence status. Undocumented children usually receive health care under the same conditions as adult undocumented migrants, with no extra protection, and are often unable to access the majority of the health care services they need.
Access to health care in law and practice
National laws regarding access to health care for undocumented children– what care children may access and under what conditions and costs - vary enormously across Europe. In many countries, undocumented children are only able to access emergency health care services, and in a few, even this many be subject to charging. In a number of countries, certain types of care that are considered ‘urgent’, ‘essential’ or ‘medically necessary’ are provided. In a number of others, all children are afforded equal or near equal access to health care services [1–3].
Numerous practical barriers can affect children’s ability to access to care that they are entitled to. These include discretion on local level, varied interpretations of what care undocumented children are entitled to, lack of awareness of children’s entitlements, and fear of detection/ denunciation [3–5].
Children’s health may also suffer generally due to a lack of continuous care, lack of access to specialist and mental health care, and due to conditions related to living in an irregular migration situation, such as poor housing conditions and stress [6, 7].
Non-governmental organisations, individual health professionals and in some cases, local and regional hospitals and health authorities are striving to fill the gaps left in state service provision and meet urgent health needs in their communities despite limited resources, while also advocating for policy change [8–10].
It is the duty of governments to ensure non-discriminatory access to health care services. There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that universal health coverage is necessary and beneficial from the perspectives of individual health, development and social inclusion, public health (including functioning and financing of public health systems), human rights, medical ethics and humanitarian principles. Alongside the examples of inclusive practice from national, regional and local levels, this evidence base requires expeditious reform of discriminatory migration and health policies.
- Fundamental Rights Agency: Fundamental rights of migrants in an irregular situation in the European Union. 2011, Vienna, 78-80.Google Scholar
- Woodward A, Howard N, Wolffers I: Health and access to care for undocumented migrants living in the European Union: a scoping review. Health Policy Plan. 2013, Aug 16-Google Scholar
- Ruiz-Casares M, Rousseau C, Derluyn I, Watters C, Crépeau F: Right and access to healthcare for undocumented children: addressing the gap between international conventions and disparate implementations in North America and Europe. Soc Sci Med. 2010, 70: 329-336. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.10.013.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- PICUM: Building Strategies to Protect Children in an Irregular Migration Situation: Country Brief – UK/ Poland/ the Netherlands/ Belgium/ France/ Italy/ Spain (series). 2011, Brussels, 2012Google Scholar
- Fundamental Rights Agency: Migrants in an irregular situation: access to healthcare in 10 European Union Member States. 2011, Vienna, 41-50.Google Scholar
- UNICEF, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants François Crépeau, PICUM, National University of Lanús, OHCHR: Human Rights of Undocumented Adolescents and Youth. Abridged version in Migration and Youth: Challenges and Opportunities. Edited by: Cortina J, Raphael A, Elie J. 2013, Brussels; New York: Global Migration Group, 2014Google Scholar
- Médecins du Monde European Observatory on Access to Health Care: Access to health care for undocumented migrants in 11 European countries. 2011, Paris, 107-123.Google Scholar
- PICUM: Children First and Foremost: A guide to realising the rights of children and families in an irregular migration situation. 2013, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
- UNICEF: Access to Civil, Economic and Social Rights for Children in the Context of Irregular Migration. Submission to the UN CRC Day of General Discussion on The rights of all children in the context of international migration: 28 September 2012. 2012, GenevaGoogle Scholar
- PICUM: Guaranteeing Access to Health Care for Undocumented Migrants in Europe: What Role Can Local and Regional Authorities Play?. 2013, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.