Needs and Wellbeing of Migrants and Refugees

• Refugees and Migrants face poorer health outcomes than the local population in their host countries.

• Refugees and migrants have physical and mental health needs that may differ from those of the host populations.

• Refugees and Migrants face many barriers to accessing healthcare in host countries.


Migration and Health: An Overview

Today, 1 in 8 people are refugees or migrants. Migration heavily impacts the individual's health, for better or worse. Health can drastically improve if someone moves from conflicts to a peaceful situation or from an area of high unemployment to one with better pay. But in some situations, it can be stagnant or worsen. Examples of how this can occur if someone has increased exposure to infections, lack of or restricted access to health services, interruption of ongoing health care, provision, or treatment, and underimmunization for vaccine-preventable diseases.

Migration and Health: An Overview

Migration and Health: An Overview

Determinants of Migrants' Health and Wellbeing

Many nonmedical factors can influence the health outcomes of refugees, migrants, and host populations. These include individual characteristics and behaviors, social and economic, and physical environments. The status of refugees and migrants can further complicate these determinants in several ways. A lot of the policies of the host country concerning health care play a significant role as well. Some countries are more inclusive with their healthcare than others.

Determinants of Migrants' Health and Wellbeing

Determinants of Migrants' Health and Wellbeing

Health Needs of Refugees and Migrants

The health needs of migrants and those of the host country can vary in several ways, such as migrants face poor transit conditions, complex immigration policies, exclusion, and acculturation stress, which all take a toll on individuals’ health status and needs. Examples can be they are more likely to be victims of sexual violence, have poor awareness of and low use of contraception, and have unmet family planning needs. Severe situations such as cancer might be diagnosed much later. Also, many refugees and migrants are at risk of developing mental health conditions often caused by traumatic or stressful experiences.

Health Needs of Refugees and Migrants

Health Needs of Refugees and Migrants

Barriers to Health of Refugees and Migrants

Many migrants face many barriers to accessing health services and receiving timely diagnosis and continuous treatment and care. Some examples of the barriers they face are cost, proximity, and general gaps in the health systems. This can be similar to the everyday barriers many of the host countries face as well.  Some other issues unique to migrants ( and many other foreigners)  are related to the unfamiliarity with the health system in transit and host countries and, therefore, to the limited knowledge of how to use the system. Language and communication barriers are also a challenge for refugees’ and migrants’ access to health services. Sometimes, healthcare workers are not trained to deal with this. Cultural differences can also cause some confusion and cause more barriers.

Barriers to Health of Refugees and Migrants

Barriers to Health of Refugees and Migrants


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Learn more

Stats, Databases & Infographics

1. Data on Migration and Health. Migration Data Portal, 2023.

2. Migration Health 2022 in numbers. International Organization for Migration.

3. Migration Health in the Sustainable Development Goals. International Organization for Migration.

4. Asylum Information Database. European Council on Refugees and Exiles.

5. Mental Health Facts on Refugees, Asylum-seekers, & Survivors of Forced Displacement. American Psychiatric Association.

Articles, Reports & Books

1. World report on the health of refugees and migrants. World Health Organization, 2022.

2. Mental health of refugees and migrants: risk and protective factors and access to care. World Health Organization, 2023.

3. Migration Health 2022 Impact Overview. World Health Organization, 2023.

4. Health in the context of migration and forced displacement. World Health Organization, 2016. 

5. Promoting the health of refugees and migrants: experiences from around the world. World Health Organization, 2023.

6. Rachdi, A. Africans’ dreams of starting a new life in Europe turn to nightmare in Tunisia. The Guardian, 2023.

7. Addressing the needs of refugees and migrants: an inclusive approach to Universal Health Coverage. World Health Organization, 2023.

8. Ruggiero, G. M. and Sassaroli, S. The needs and struggles of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. State of Mind, 2016.

9. Migrant Women's Mental Health and Wellbeing. European Network of Migrant Women, 2021.

10. Sirin, S. R. and Rogers-Sirin, L. The Educational and Mental Health Needs of Syrian Refugee Children. Migration Policy Institute, 2015.

11. Fernández-Reino, M. The health of migrants in the UK. The Migration Observatory, 2020.

12. Health and Care for Migrants and Displaced Persons Case studies from the Asia Pacific region. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2017.

13. Phelan, J. France debates scrapping free healthcare for undocumented migrants. Radio France Internationale, 2023.

Eductional Resources

Teaching ideas and recommendations

1. Essential Knowledge - Health and Migration. World Health Organization.

2. Migration Health Infosheets and Position Papers. International Organization for Migration.

3. Refugee and migrant health. World Health Organization.

4. Public health. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

5. Immigrant and Refugee Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

6. Migration learning resources. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

7. Teaching about Refugees. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

8. Activities to help young people understand migration. British Red Cross.

Lectures & Debates

1. WHO Global School on Refugee and Migrant Health. World Health Organization, 2022.

2. Daod, E. How we can bring mental health support to refugees. TED Talks, 2018.

3. Jones, C. Bridging the refugee health gap. TED Talks, 2018.

4. Marchetti, M. Migrants, Refugees & Mental Health. Empowering Minds, 2022.

5. The health journey of refugees and migrants is global health. Global Health Matters, 2022. 

6. Hayden, S. How has “Fortress Europe” created a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean?: Sally Hayden. Ireland’s Edge, 2023.

7. Colombia: Venezuelan women’s struggle for healthcare. Doctors Without Borders, 2019. 

8. Reducing barriers to healthcare access for immigrant and refugees. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2018.

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