IFMSA and IPSF on the Health of Migrants and Refugees

Endorsed Content

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(IFMSA, 2017)

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(IPSF, 2017)

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) and the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) are deeply concerned about the conditions migrants and refugees face around Europe, particularly in Greece and the Balkans. Thousands of migrants and refugees are trapped in freezing conditions in inadequate and unhealthy camps and shelters.

Several deaths due to hypothermia were reported in Bulgaria and Greece by humanitarian organizations working in the region[1]. Adding to this, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reported several cases of frostbite and hypothermia from a number of European countries[2][3]. However, these examples are not the first ones – already in November 2016, a woman and child were killed in a tragic fire that erupted in the Moria hotspot on Lesvos, Greece, when a gas canister attached to a hot plate exploded inside their small nylon tent[4]. Today, almost two months after this deadly incident, many people have no other choice but to continue to live in tents and heat them in the same way.

In many Balkan countries, migrants and refugees live in abandoned buildings without access to water, hygiene and sanitation facilities, trying to survive in temperatures as low as -20°C in improvised shelters or snow-filled streets. Even in many official camps, accommodation facilities are not adapted for the winter conditions and people are forced to look for desperate solutions on how to fight the freezing reality. In some cases, authorities have placed restrictions on humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to these people, only tolerating basic distribution of blankets and food[1]. In some European countries, there are even reports of state authorities confiscating blankets and destroying migrants’ shelters[5],which we consider a direct violation of the human right to adequate standard of living.

Two groups that are exceptionally vulnerable during this winter period are women and children. Children continue to live in these squalid, unsafe camps, at risk of disease; unable

to continue their education and exposed to abuse and exploitation. This violates their rights under the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – their right to basic needs and support to reach their potential. Women face violence, assault and exploitation in these conditions. Pregnant women have no access to healthcare, which invariably affects them and their unborn child. Without basic healthcare and supplies, many of these women and children will not survive the winter.

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, the world’s largest federation of medical students, and the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF), the leading international advocacy organization for pharmacy students, believe that their members have a global responsibility to respond to the refugee crisis. We repeatedly call all responsible actors to give urgent attention to the suffering of asylum seekers and refugees.

We immediately call governments to fulfil their obligations under international human rights law, European Convention on Human Rights, and the 1951 Refugee Convention and its’ additional 1967 protocol, to ensure the right to health, a right that is closely and inextricably linked to the rights to life, human dignity, non-discrimination and equality, is upheld. We remind governments of the commitments they made during the United Nations High-Level Political Meeting on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, in particular their commitment to ensure that all refugees and migrants will live in safety and dignity.

We consider it most important to call for:

Governments to:

• Provide immediate assistance to all migrants and refugees to ensure that every person is housed in dignified, safe and warm living conditions;

• Ensure full access to health and social services for migrants and refugees in need;

• Adhere to international human rights and humanitarian laws by ensuring that the rights of migrants and refugees are respected and that they are treated with dignity and without discrimination;

• Collaborate with other countries as well as international non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, and other relevant actors in order to create and implement a refugee-handling plan that is equitable and takes into account the capacity of countries to accept refugees;

• Create and promote safe, legal routes that people needing protection can use in order to apply for asylum without endangering their lives;

• Establish programs to enable a continuation of basic education in and outside of official camps;

• Prevent the risk of statelessness amongst child refugees by ensuring that they have identification documentation thus reducing the risk of trafficking and exploitation.

Health Sector (including Medical and Pharmaceutical Students) to:

• Take active roles in advocating for the rights of migrants and refugees in their country;

• Start and support projects, activities, and initiatives that encourage social cohesion between refugees and the general population, and promote the integration of refugees into the hosting community;

• Advocate for a sustainable expansion of accessible services in the health systems of hosting countries, guaranteeing dignifying and non-discriminatory care for migrants and refugees;

• Engage different stakeholders (e.g., governments, NGOs) to implement a plan of action to ensure the wellbeing of migrants and refugees;

• Promote research on the physical, psychosocial and public health aspects of migrants’ and refugees’ health;

• Advocate for migrant’s health education to be part of the medical curricula;

• Raise public awareness around the inequities in health as well as the prejudice faced by migrants and refugees.

References:

IFMSA’s policy statement on Asylum Seeker and Refugee’s Health

[1] “Migration: Thousands Trapped In Freezing Temperatures In Greece And The Balkans”. Médecins Sans

Frontières (MSF) International. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 Jan. 2017; available at:

http://www.msf.org/en/article/migration-thousands-trapped-freezing-temperatures-greece-and-balkans

[2] Eliza Mackintosh, CNN. “Conditions Worsen For Europe’s Refugees As Temperatures Plummet”. CNN. N.p.,

2017. Web. 13 Jan. 2017; available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/09/europe/refugees-suffer-europe-coldsnap/

[3] “Thousands Of Refugees At Risk Of Hypothermia And Frostbite Living In -20C In Serbia”. ITV News. N.p.,

2017. Web. 10 Jan. 2017; available at: http://www.itv.com/news/2017-01-10/thousands-of-refugees-at-risk-ofhypothermia-

and-frostbite-living-in-20c-in-serbia/

[4] Dearden, Lizzie. “Woman And Child Killed In Fire At Refugee Detention Camp”. The Independent. N.p., 2017.

Web. 25 Nov. 2016; available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugee-crisis-woman-childboy-killed-moria-camp-lesbos-centre-greek-island-cooking-gas-a7438171.html

[5] Pasha-Robinson, Lucy. “French Police ‘Stealing Blankets From Migrants’ Forced To Sleep Rough In Freezing

Conditions”. The Independent. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 Jan. 2017; available at:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/french-police-stealing-blankets-migrants-paris-msfa7516171.html

The International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) envisions a world in which medical students unite for global health and are equipped with the knowledge, skills and values to take on health leadership roles locally and globally. Founded in 1951, it is one of the world’s oldest and largest student-run organizations. It represents, connects and engages every day with an inspiring and engaging network of 1.3 million medical students from 130 national member organizations in 122 countries around the globe.

The International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) was founded in 1949 by eight pharmacy student associations in London. The Federation now represents approximately 350,000 pharmacy students and recent graduates across 81 countries worldwide. IPSF is the leading international advocacy organization for pharmacy students promoting improved public health through provision of information, education, networking, and a range of publications and professional activities.

 

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