‘Be prepared or face more migrant crises’

Published: 16 May 2016 at 17:00

Refugees queuing next to a train

International health expert says governments must accept that migration will rise

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Governments must accept mass migration is here to stay, according to an expert in migrant global health.

Speaking at a public lecture at Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Davide Mosca, Director of the Migration Health department of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said the biggest challenge is how to deal with mass migration rather than attempting to stop it.

He added that anticipation and preparation is key to avoiding the kind of tragedy and instability that has blighted the last year, with millions of migrants attempting to enter Europe from destabilised nations in Africa and the Middle East.

It is estimated that one in seven of the world’s population is currently on the move, with 247 million people having crossed international borders and 740 million displaced internally within countries. The IOM predicts that by 2050, that volume may double partly due to the increasing likelihood of environmental changes, conflict and shortage of resources.

Dr Mosca said:

“We must be prepared and manage migration and human mobility rationally. If we don’t face the challenge of the future we will have crisis upon crisis. Migration is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be managed, including in the health sector.

“People don’t move because they choose to move, increasingly they are forced to. More restrictive policies forces people into perilous journeys exploitation and into the hands of criminal networks, such as traffickers. Something needs to be done at all levels to improve management and to share responsibility for the protection of refugees.

“It is vital to ensure migrants have the same access to healthcare as the indigenous population. If migrants stay healthy, they contribute to sustainable economies. Ill health is a liability and leads to poverty and a drain on resources.”

Dr Mosca added that Europe is suffering “amnesia” by taking a negative view of migrants, citing the mass migration both within and from Europe during the Second World War as an example of how it is not just countries from the developing world that have been forced to move elsewhere.

Dr Mosca visited Anglia Ruskin as part of a research visit alongside experts from the University of Ottawa, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Anglia Ruskin’s own Senior Lecturer in Public Health, Dr Chesmal Siriwardhana.