Irish Foreign Affairs Committee discusses WHO/Europe work on migration and health

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Irish Houses of the Oireachtas welcomed in January 2015 a presentation by the team of the WHO/Europe project ‘Public Health Aspects of Migration in Europe’ (PHAME). The session focused mainly on the work of the WHO Regional Office for Europe on migrants’ health since the 2011 large arrivals of immigrants to southern Mediterranean countries. Furthermore, the upcoming process to map out priorities, challenges and common approaches across the region was also discussed, focusing on the current situation of northern European countries.

Moving from a Mediterranean focus to a regional approach

In addition to the requests for technical support from southern European countries in the area of migration and public health, other European realities have gained considerable importance across the region. While southern Mediterranean countries often deal with undocumented migration, northern European Member States are currently addressing the challenge of integrating refugees and asylum seekers, and the eastern European countries are receiving a growing number of economic migrants. This complex reality requires a regional approach able to identify countries’ needs and priorities, while recognizing common positions and solutions to improve the health of both the migrant population and resident communities.

Ireland is a country with a great experience in migration – both emigration and immigration –, knowledge of the multifaceted challenges related to this issue, as well as a vast experience in the area of health inequalities and vulnerability. The Irish national strategy Healthy Ireland for 2012-2020 has adapted the main priorities and objectives of the European policy framework Health 2020 to its national context, making of public health a vital force for improving the health of its population.

After the presentation and discussion at the Irish Foreign Affairs Committee, the Chairman welcomed the initiative and concluded with a proposal to share the presentation with the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs as a follow-up to explore possibilities for future collaboration.