A week of migration & health in Joburg: Where are we? Where do we go?

MHADRI member and doctoral candidate, Thea de Gruchy, reflects on a week of activities, co-hosted by MHADRI – that were held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in early August. This article was originally published on the International Health Policies Network (IHP Network) website on 6th August: ‘A week of migration & health in Joburg: Where are we? Where do we go?

Last week, the Lancet Commission on Migration and Health’s Report – The health of a world on the move – was formerly launched in South Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Using the attention drawn by this event, the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), alongside colleagues in Demography and Public Health, held a series of events for those of us working on migration and health in the region – to come together, reflect on current realities, and think about the way forward.

As such, a two-day Early Career Researcher workshop for postgraduate students working in and around the field of migration and health; a Wits, UCL, UCL-Commission, and Chatham House convened roundtable looking specifically at realizing UHC in this context; a public symposium and the South African launch of the Report; and a regional symposium on gender, migration, health and public policy were all held in Joburg between 29 July – 2 August.

Migration & health in South & southern Africa

Reflecting global trends, issues of migration and health, including whether cross-border nationals should have access to health care in host countries, are incredibly contentious in South and southern Africa. Although countries across both the global North and South have committed to implementing and realizing Universal Health Coverage (UHC), many are reticent to include cross-border migrant populations in their plans. Which, as I have argued in an IHP blog post before, will undermine attempts to realize UHC and meet other global health targets, including UNAIDS 90:90:90.

To give you a broad sense of the migration and health landscape in the region, there are four things worth highlighting.

  1. The region is associated with mixed migration flows and as such sees the movement of refugees, asylum seekers, and those looking for work across borders, as well as the movement of a far greater number of people internally, within national borders;
  2. Health systems across the region are overburdened and under-resourced, and access to social determinants that could positively impact health, for example decent housing, formal education, well-paid work, and running water, is limited for both nationals and non-nationals;
  3. Current public health responses are not migration-aware or mobility-competent. In other words, health systems don’t acknowledge and engage with the reality that people move both within and across borders, with implications for continuity of care and communicable disease control; and, finally,
  4. South Africa, a key country to which many within the region migrate, is particularly hostile towards non-nationals. Not only does the state approach migration as an issue of security, but frequent outbursts of xenophobic violence occur across the country. In fact, on Thursday during the launch of the Commission’s report, a few kilometers away in the Johannesburg Central Business District, police raided foreign owned businesses and met resistance to these raids with rubber bullets and accusations of having been attacked by non-nationals.

Key conversations & themes

Within this context, across all four of the events last week three key themes emerged.

The first, which I believe will surprise no frequent reader of this blog, is that the development and implementation of schemes in the name of UHC, in the South African case the National Health Insurance (NHI), do not necessarily mean that UHC will be realized. The exclusion of non-nationals from the NHI is a clear example of this in South Africa. Rather than being a comprehensive system of coverage, the NHI threatens to be one in which a select package is offered to select categories of people.

The second theme was around the increasing securitization of health as a consequence of concerns about migration. The use of healthcare service providers and healthcare facilities as immigration control needs to be guarded against. While communicable disease control and monitoring remain important, these efforts will in fact be undermined if the accessibility of healthcare to non-nationals is further limited and if non-nationals actively avoid healthcare facilities over fears of arrest and deportation.

The third emergent theme was that a rights-based argument for ensuring that non-nationals have equitable access to healthcare does not seem to be working in South Africa, or globally for that matter. Alternatives have been suggested, a global public goods approach that argues that limiting the access to healthcare and wellbeing for non-nationals will ultimately undermine the health and wellbeing of nationals, for example. Increasingly efforts have also been made to recognise the economic benefit that migration and migrants have for their host communities. Whether such arguments will work where the rights-based argument has failed and whether it is desirable to be making these kinds of arguments is however up for debate.

Ways forward and one caveat

Given the particularly depressing nature of these conversations, important questions were asked about the way forward. An obvious point of departure for those of us in South Africa is the need to work to improve the NHI prior to its roll out and once it has been implemented; to ensure that UHC is realized through the scheme, and that key populations are not left behind.

In addition, improved responses are needed for key populations that have traditionally been left behind by the healthcare system, as well as ignored by researchers. Although, as Loren Landau argued, a key example of the latter are in fact policy makers. Researching migration does not simply mean researching migrants and their lived experiences, but also the mechanisms for governing migration and the people who are involved in their development and implementation.

Here, the potential for bibliometrics to illuminate gaps in our research and knowledge, and as such, direct future research emerges. As we know, while most migration happens within the global South, most of the research and literature on migration has been focused on, or at least written, in the global North.

However, while there is a tendency to lament the fact that we need more data, a key tension emerges between the fact that there is this need, but that the data that is already available is often used nefariously and to further anti-migration mechanisms. Making invisible populations visible, quantifying and qualifying migrants, opening up the black box around the mechanisms that migrants use to circumnavigate increasingly restrictive bureaucratic structures may not be in the best interests of those who migrate, and may simply be strengthening the hand of those who are trying to put a stop to migration.

Not a particularly positive note on which to end things, but, given the state of the world, fairly inevitable. As researchers and practitioners, the need to be rigorous and rigorously ethical – to ensure confidentiality and anonymity; to push back against entities that seek to fund work that would improve their efforts at securitization; and to improve research collaborations and partnerships so that research produced reflects local realities rather than a global agenda – in our work has never been more imperative.

Participants during the public symposium

[This article was originally published on the International Health Policies Network (IHP Network) website on 6th August: ‘A week of migration & health in Joburg: Where are we? Where do we go?‘, and the images are courtesy of MoVE ( method:visual:explore)

Early Career Workshop: Migration and Health in Southern Africa

29TH AND 30TH JULY 2019


We invite applications for a two-day workshop aimed at postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows working on migration and health in southern Africa.  Sessions will be run on methods and ethics, theoretical and conceptual approaches to the study of migrant health, refugee health with international experts.

Apply here: http://www.migration.org.za/early-career-researcher-workshop/

Organizing Migration and Integration in Contemporary Societies – OMICS: health, risk and resilience

Conference, 6-9 November, 2019, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

January 20th: call is announced
May 15th: deadline for abstracts
June 15th: Decisions regarding selection of abstracts
September 1st: registration
September 15th: the full program is announced
October 9th: Deadline for submission of full papers

General call for papers – specific calls under each Sub-theme
Growth in international migration has prompted a diversity of efforts to manage global migratory flows as well as improve and streamline the economic, social and political integration of migrants into the host countries. Migration and integration today involve a myriad of actors such as international and regional bodies, state agencies and municipalities, companies, interest groups, community-embedded, civil society organizations as well as individuals, including migrants, who design, implement reproduce, participate in, and replicate individual or collaborative initiatives aimed at facilitating migration and integration. Some efforts are planned and involve years of preparation and the engagement of large coalition of actors; others are ephemeral and ad hoc, emerging from one day to the next only to disappear again quickly. Some efforts aim at facilitating transnational migration others at improving migrants’ health, at supporting migrants’ inclusion into the host countries’ education system or the labour market, at preventing radicalization, or securing migrants’ civic, social and legal inclusion in the new country. From a coordination and organizing perspective, this myriad of actors and activities separated in time and space poses not only far-reaching challenges, but also great opportunities.

These challenges and opportunities demand novel and critical research and interdisciplinary approaches from a range of disciplines, such as anthropology, educational sciences, health sciences, information technology, international studies, law and human rights, management and organization studies, migration studies, political science, social work and sociology. This to rethink how migration shapes and produces inclusion and exclusion around the world – from welfare states in the Global North to the states of the Global South.

The School of Business, Economics and Law, together with the Centre on Global Migration at the University of Gothenburg, therefore invites scholars from many disciplines and all parts of the globe to the Organizing Migration and Integration in Contemporary Societies Conference, 6–9 November, 2019, in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Health, risk, and resilience: Transcending the biological, the psychological, the social, and the structural in migration and integration

Josephine T. V. Greenbrook
Health is more than pulse and blood pressure; it transcends the biological, the psychological, the social, and the structural. Health, in all its existential complexity, is fundamental to the enjoyment of all human rights. Due to the syndemic nature of migration, substantial impacts on health can occur through exposure to cumulative risk factors relating to disparity, structural violence, and social condition. Migrating populations have largely suffered interpersonal and structural trauma, such as having been exposed to conflicts of war and extreme poverty, having lost family and close relations, and having suffered bodily harm, sexual violence, and torture, as well as oppression, neglect, and maltreatment. Beyond other social vulnerabilities, harsh living circumstances involved in pre, during, and post-migration, also contribute to a number of health-related issues in all those affected. Notwithstanding this, substantial barriers in seeking health care exist for migrants, and discrimination, neglect, and prejudicial attitudes amongst health care practitioners have been reported. Clinicians have also been found to struggle with a variety of difficulties, ethical dilemmas, and other conflicts in transcultural health care encounters. Cultural stigma, low health literacy, and low healthcare utilization amongst migrant populations further compound existing problems.

This stream aims to highlight health as it relates to migration, as well as the fundamental role of health in integration. The objective is to present empirical research and critical academic debate exploring risk and resilience in migrant health and transcultural care, in theory, policy, and practice. We warmly welcome contributions from a wide variety of disciplines, as well as multi-disciplinary work.

This will include, and is not limited to, topics covering:
• The foundational role of health in integration
• Upholding health as a human right in the context of migration
• Migration and healthcare barriers
• Migrant health rights and health equity in applied settings
• Syndemics and migration
• Health and intersectionality in relation to migration
• Mental health and belonging in migration and integration
• Clinical and organisational challenges to care delivery
• Transcultural health care encounters
• Ethical considerations related to transcultural care provision
• Community health engagement
• NGO and other outreach practices
• Other related topics


[Call for Papers] 2019 RISC Consortium Conference on “Barriers and Borders: Human Mobility and Building Inclusive Societies”

Call for Papers:

‘Barriers and Borders: Human Mobility and Building Inclusive Societies’

2019 International Conference of the Consortium for Comparative Research on Regional Integration and Social Cohesion (RISC)

4-5 November 2019

Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Organized by the UJ Department of Politics and International Relations, the University of Helsinki, the University of Luxembourg (Migration and Inclusive Societies Group), and INECOL (GAMMA)

The Consortium for Comparative Research on Regional Integration and Social Cohesion (RISC) promotes the comparative examination of the human and environmental impacts of various aspects of regional integration across geographic areas. The movement of human beings across borders is a serious international concern, becoming increasingly more so in recent years, and has potentially devastating consequences not only on the scattered communities fleeing hazardous circumstances but also for policymakers, health practitioners, the environment and ecosystems, local communities, urban planners, social activists and national governments alike. Border and migration issues generally continue to challenge policymakers in states and regional bodies across the globe. Similarly, the conversation around the nature and role of the state, including the open-border debate, in a continuously globalizing and increasingly complex international system continues too. The implications of human movement that characterise evolving trends in 21st century societies, are so great and all-encompassing that an interdisciplinary lens is almost a necessity in attempting to grapple with their consequences and to measure their impacts. These discussions underscore mainstream theoretical arguments and highlight regional thinking on people versus resources; society-specific values versus universal norms; access to land; the definition of ‘illegal’; impact on economies, the value of human capital, and fundamentally the question that demands constant societal reflection: Who decides what, where, when and why? The conference will include both keynote panels (by invitation) and panels organized by the consortium’s working groups.

The deadline for the submission of paper proposals is 20 March 2019. All proposals should be sent to riscuj2019@gmail.com including 1) Proposed paper title, 2) Author name(s) and contact information, 3) Author affiliation(s) and position(s), 3) A 100-200 word abstract and 4) The name of the panel for which the paper is being proposed. All papers presented at the conference can be submitted for publication in the RISC Consortium’s peer-reviewed journal Regions & Cohesion (Berghahn Journals) and may also feature in a special edition of Politikon (South African Journal of Political Studies).

The RISC Consortium values proposals from early-career scholars which can be combined with participation in the consortium’s doctoral/postdoctoral school on “Barriers and Borders: Human Mobility and Building Inclusive Societies” that will be held from 6-8 November in association with this conference (see call for applications at www.risc.lu).

Conference Costs: The RISC Consortium provides accommodation and conference meals for participants affiliated with the consortium’s member institutes. Non-affiliated scholars must pay for their own accommodation as well as a 100 Euro (roughly R1600) conference registration fee. International travel is the responsibility of conference participants.


Panel I: Environment and Sustainable Development Paradigms at a Crossroads with Border Issues

Working Group: Management of Strategic Resources, Environment and Society

Coordinators: Dr. Carmen Maganda (INECOL, Mexico) and Dr. Edith Kauffer (CIESAS Sureste, Mexico)

It has been said (many times by now) that the environmental/natural resources know no borders. Yet, all the globe is about administrative divisions and eventually some physical barriers with considerable impacts on the sustainable management of strategic and natural resources in both sides of the lines. This panel calls for papers on environmental issues at a crossroads, considering borders at any level, which can address cooperation or conflictive situations pointing the paradigms of sustainable development in border areas. We will welcome inter and transdisciplinary analysis on border environmental management/governance including resources such water (lakes, basins, aquifers), land, mining, gas, forest and protected areas, but also air pollution and climate change impacts. Two guiding questions are: Which are the impacts of administrative and physical barriers on environmental/natural resources and its management? Who is doing what, when and how (from decision taken, institutional programs to any kind of social participation) in regards to the sustainability of shared environmental resources?


Panels II and III: Policy Coherence for Inclusive Societies: What Roles for Borders and Mobility?

Working Groups: Development, Equity and Policy Coherence and Comparative Border and Migration Politics (co-sponsored)

Coordinators: Dr. Lauri Siitonen (University of Helsinki, Finland) and Dr. Harlan Koff (University of Luxembourg)

Migration has been recognized by international institutions as a fundamental contributor to development processes, through the establishment of transnational development networks, diaspora funding of projects and contributions to increasingly segmented labor markets. Simultaneously, most advanced industrial states have responded to migration flows with securitized policies due to the recent rise of nativist and/or populism in different world regions. Development aid has generally been co-opted by governments as part of securitized migration policies in order to 1) reinforce border controls, 2) externalize borders through the use of conditionality in development aid to neighboring states and 3) dissuade migration in sending states. These trends seem to undermine the notion of policy coherence for sustainable development (PCD). This panel broadly calls for papers addressing how migration and borders can promote inclusive development in different world regions. While all topics related to migration/borders and inclusive development are pertinent to this panel, particular attention will be paid to the definition, implementation and evaluation of policy coherence for development in relation to migration and border governance.


Panel IV: Migration, Borders and Well-being: Examining Public Health Through the Lens of Inclusiveness

Working Group: Civil society, Vulnerable Populations, and State Policies of Health and Well-being

Coordinators: Dr. Robert Dover† and Dr. Claudia Puerta Silva (both of the Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia)

The current global trend towards a more integrated world is challenging our understanding of public health. Whereas health services were traditionally viewed as public goods provided by states to citizens, current health systems are characterized by a plurality of actors that intervene in different political, socio-economic and territorial contexts. Governance seeks to clarify how different actors operate and interact in systems characterized by shifting borders and human mobility. Also, public health is viewed less as a public good and more as a fundamental pillar of inclusive societies. Building on previous initiatives fostered within the RISC Consortium, this panel calls for papers that examine public health within the context of migration and transnationalsm. Some questions to be addressed include: What strategies address health challenges linked to migration? How do migrants respond to their own health needs? How can regional strategies address the health needs of cross-border communities, including vulnerable populations? What cultural issues must be addressed in order to respond to the health needs of transnational ethnic groups? How can civil society and government promote healthy cities in regional contexts? How does public health reflect and contribute to inclusiveness in different world regions?


Panel V: Establishing Policy Coherence between Ecosystem Integrity, Disasters and Development: Honing in on Mobility/Migration

Working Group: The Social Construction of Risk and Disasters

Coordinator: Dr. Dora Ramos (ECOSUR, Mexico)

It has been well documented, that 1) development processes have been forged on the assumption of exploitation of nature, usually in fragile ecosystems and 2) development promotes urbanization, mobility, and illegality which has resulted in inequality, migration, and dispossession. Development then goes against ecosystem integrity and creates vulnerable conditions for societies which are the bases for disasters. In this panel, we look for cases in which it has been possible to identify policy coherence between ecosystem integrity, disasters, and development in relation to mobility/migration.  The panel enquires how it is possible to establish a relationship between environment and society that reduces risks in the territories where the development processes are implemented.


Panel VI: Violent Resource Extraction, Conflict and Threats to Ecosystem Integrity

Working Group: Conflict, Violence and Citizen Security

Coordinator: Dr. Juan Carlos Velez Rendon (Universidad de Antioquia, Mexico)

Insecurity and human mobility has been associated to describe opposite phenomena, which reappear intermittently in different contexts. On the one hand, situations of forced displacement for economic, political or cultural reasons, in which people accuse a strong violation of their rights in the places they live and from which they are expelled, in places that they travel during their migration and in the spaces they arrive to try to rebuild their lives. In these cases, the migrant is a person without rights, unprotected and exposed to numerous risks, that is, insecure. On the other hand, insecurity is also associated with the migrant, especially in these latter spaces, in which the migrant is represented by different actors as a threat or potential danger to a supposedly stable community or to an idealized social and political order. In this situation, the migrant is the apparent generator of other people’s insecurity. The Group calls for theoretical, methodological or descriptive analyzes of such phenomena in which insecurity and human mobility are associated; analysis of public policies aimed to protecting migrants or violating their rights; description of cases in which such situations are exposed; uses of the notion of insecurity associated with human mobility for political or ideological purposes; incidence of this form of mobility in security discourses or in governmental actions; expressions of xenophobia associated to population forced to move.


Panel VII: Quality of Democracy and Migration: Key debates and policy dynamics

Working Group: The Quality of Democracy

Coordinator: Dr Vicky Graham (UJ)

There is a general assumption that large scale migration poses serious challenges to the effective functioning of good quality democracies, with some arguing that large migration impacts governments’ ability to deliver services effectively as well as raising questions around the capacity of democratic institutions to integrate effectively refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants into society. Moreover, public opinion appears to be split over the potential value of the political participation of migrants and refugees to the good health of a democracy. This panel examines these assumptions. Key questions, amongst others, to be addressed by the panel include: What is the relationship between the quality of democracy and large migration flows? How does the quality of democracy relate to policy making issues around immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism? To what extent should governments enable migrants’ political participation and integration in society? Comparative research is especially welcome.


Panel VIII: Migration issues in International Relations

Working Group:  International Relations

Coordinator: Dr Suzy Graham (UJ)

Traditionally International Relations (IR) as a discipline has emphasized the role of power politics and conflict in the international system. However, the study of migration and immigration and their links within, and to, IR have increasingly emerged within the discipline. Indeed, the two intersect in many interesting and important ways.

“First, migration is itself a function of the international system of states. Without states, there are no borders to cross and it is the crossing of borders that remains at the heart of the politics of migration: who crosses, how, where, and why, are the operative issues at the heart of policymaking,  debate, and practice in migration. This also places the state at the heart of much of the analysis; the ability to control borders is at the core of questions of state sovereignty. It is state action, regulation and law, therefore, that shape and determine much international migration. As many critical scholars have pointed out, however, migrants themselves also have agency and autonomy; their   movements are not simply reactive to state policy and practice, but determine its direction. Here, then, we see a manifestation of one of the foundational debates of world politics: which actors have power, and how that power is understood. Further, international migration by its very definition involves more than one state, calling attention to interstate relations, and to questions of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The emergence of key international institutions, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), also brings us questions of institutional power (often versus state power), and of the development of international regimes. Migration studies is located at the intersection of several different disciplines and fields of study” (Heather Johnson, 2017: DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756223-0204).

Key debates within IR and migration studies relate to the nature of migration, cooperation and security; intergovernmental regulations and frameworks; policy and governance issues, and emerging scholarship on asylum seekers and refugees and alternative voices from the Global South. Conference papers touching on the above debates are welcome.


Conference Scientific Committee: Dr S Graham (University of Johannesburg), Dr V Graham (University of Johannesburg), Dr Lauri Siitonen (University of Helsinki), Dr Harlan Koff (University of Luxembourg)

Contact Info:

Harlan Koff
Professeur en Sciences Sociales

Maison des Sciences Humaines


11, Porte des Sciences

L-4366 Esch-Belval


Téléphone : ++ 352 46 66 44 62 70
Fax : ++352 46 66 44 63 48
e-mail: Harlan.Koff@uni.lu


Contact Email:

Global Forum on Bioethics in Research – “Ethics of research with refugee and migrant populations, 2017” – Meeting Report

MHADRI members participated in the Global Forum on Bioethics in Research satellite meeting in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2017, to explore the “Ethics of research with refugee and migrant populations”. Over two days and with the use of case studies, 42 participants from 24 countries discussed their experience of conducting research with migrant and refugee populations and the associated ethical challenges. By identifying what is needed to advance ethical research in this field, the meeting aimed to stimulate an agenda to improve research practice and health outcomes for migrant and refugee populations.

Download the full GFBR Report 2017.

[Call for applications] Early Career Researcher Workshop – ‘Engendering research and reframing policy debate on Migration & Health and intersectional rights’

Building capacities & disrupting mainstream narratives

Workshop for Early Career Researchers on ‘Engendering research and reframing policy debate on Migration & Health and intersectional rights’



Download the call for applications

The Centre for Global Public Health and the Global Policy Institute at Queen Mary University (London), University of Edinburgh and Delhi University in collaboration with the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), UN UniversityInstitute of Global Health (UNU-IIGH), Nepal Institute for Development Studies (NIDS) & Migration Health and Development Research Network (MHADRI) invite abstracts from early career researchers to participate in a SouthSouth research collaboration & skill development workshop, to be held in Kathmandu from 25-28 April 2019.

The workshop is part of Strengthening Policy And Research Capacities (SPARC) on migration, rights and global health initiative funded by the British Council aimed at strengthening research capacities and skills and facilitating crosscultural mentorship of early career researchers (ECRs) from both the UK and South/ South East Asia to advance collaborative research agenda on Migration, Health & Intersectional rights. The overall objective of this initiative is to develop a South-South knowledge exchange and learning platform on Migration & Health rights to strengthen community of research & practice and engender new collaborations to address evidence gaps for responsive and coherent migration & health policies.

A total of 18 ECRs from the Southern region and 6 from the UK will be selected to participate in a three-day workshop that will focus on:

1. Reviewing theoretical concepts and methods for migration research, and how these can incorporate gender and intersectionality lens and equity focus

2. Exploring regional and domestic perspectives on migration, and introducing current gaps in scholarship and policy discussions on migration health

3. Facilitating development of research clusters on cross-cutting areas of Migration and Health Rights, and pairing Southern and Northern researchers to develop collaborating research and writing on following indicative thematic areas: a. Gender in migration and health research b. Access to healthcare c. Social care, livelihoods and occupational health d. Mental health & well-being e. Violence and social justice

4. Mentoring projects and supporting structured writing and learning

Eligibility: Applications are invited from Migration and/or Health inequalities scholars from (and residing in) countries in South & South East Asia region (especially Bangladesh, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia) and the UK.

We use the term ECR to include researchers at both academic institutions as well as other policy and voluntary sector organisations that have research as part of their mandate. If affiliated to an academic higher education institution, applicants should have either completed their PhD or be near submission (in their final year).

Applicants do not have to be established independent researchers but should demonstrate a research trajectory and some experience of conducting research on any aspects of migration and health (from policy, experiential or other perspective). Successful applicants will be offered full support for participation i.e. costs of accommodation, visa and travel (economy return ticket to Kathmandu) will be fully covered.

How to apply: The deadline for submission of application is 5pm (GMT) on Friday, 25 January 2019.

As part of your application, please submit the following to sparcmigrationhealth@gmail.com.

i) A personal statement of 300 words that outlines your current research in migration, and what research problem you are interested in developing in future – with some consideration of why this knowledge is useful and for what purposes will it be utilised.

ii) Indicate what, according to you, are the top 2 issues in migration and health field in your country.

iii) 250 word proposal for an academic paper/policy brief/commentary/op-ed/blog or other creative output(s) that you would like to produce through the workshop and subsequent collaboration.

You can direct your queries to Dr. Anuj Kapilashrami or Dr Jeevan Sharma on sparcmigrationhealth@gmail.com



Migration is a global phenomenon. Alongside significant benefits it offers to individuals, states and economy, it presents significant public policy, humanitarian and human rights challenges. Yet, implications of mobility for migrants’ health is a neglected field; and the policy field of migration and health continues to be fragmented, and mired with conceptual and methodological gaps. First, academic scholarship on migration & health is fragmented; with disproportionate attention on specific categories / population groups of migrants (such as refugees/ asylum seekers, internally displaced and labour migrants etc.) and their vulnerabilities. Moreover, while there is growing recognition that migration is a gendered process, migration studies continue to be devoid of an explicit gendered analysis (Nawyn 2010) and have developed only cursory approaches to diversity and intersectionality (Bürkner 2012; Kapilashrami & Hankivsky 2018). These omissions limit analysis of how migration processes create differential risks for migrants at different stage of their mobility and settlement, and intersecting inequalities (Alsaba and Kapilashrami 2016), resulting in exclusionary policies and institutional responses.

Ongoing consultations as part of an ESRC-ICSSR funded research project examining what India’s urban transformation means for low-income migrants, their inclusion and social justice and British council funded consultations in the wider region have highlighted critical gaps in our knowledge of gendered experiences, as well as status of entitlements and provisions for migrant communities. These consultations also underscored the argument that policy and research outputs on forced migration and displacement has been dominated by scholars in North-based institutions and represents perspectives of high-income countries and not countries of origin (Landau 2012); while the debate in Global South has rarely made into global migration debates.

Acknowledging this as a major lacuna, this initiative attempts to create a platform to truly globalise scholarship and policy response by generating and sharing insights from both global north/south. Second, the policy sphere on migration is fragmented as policies are developed in silos (of policy sectors such as immigration, humanitarian aid, security, labor, public health among others) with distinct and often conflicting goals (Zimmerman et. al. 2011). Attention to health and social care of migrants is particularly deficient in policy dialogues on migration; devoid of rights language and southern perspectives (for e.g., the Global Compact for Migration). However, as debates on ‘global health governance’ and ‘global migration’ expand and begin to converge in different policy spheres, there is a growing imperative for policy makers to engage in cross-sector dialogue to align priorities and coordinate responses to migration across regions. Such responses must go beyond narrow public health interventions and protectionist policies(ibid), and embrace rights based approaches to address complexities of circular migration and migrants’ vulnerabilities and agency. The above scholarship and policy gaps form the basis of this UK-South (East) Asia collaboration. This collaborative initiative is developed as a timely response to the recent call for a global research agenda on migration, mobility and health.

The 2nd Global Consultation on Health of Migrants (GCMH) held in Sri Lanka in February 2017, called for:

the development of a research infrastructure on migrant health by securing support for research programs and institutions and building needed capacity, especially for researchers in the global South

Report from the Global Consultation on Migration and Health 2018:pg 48

The report further underscored the importance of “migrant health research network, communities of practice, and international partnerships with those working on other global health priorities” as key to enhance the quality and breadth of research evidence and evidence-informed policy. The workshop will draw on collective experience of prior and ongoing research projects, networks and collaborations to examine what is known and migrant’s differential social position (of class, gender, race/ethnicity, livelihood etc.) shape risks to their health and violence, and regional level policy discussions on health and social protections. These offer exciting opportunity to develop research capacities and amplify methodological and empirical learnings to engender migration scholarship and policy.

Tentative Agenda

Day 1 Probing understandings & Knowledge on Migration & Health – Identifying research gaps in global/regional/national migration and health research – Challenges in defining and finding migrants Methodological insights from ESRC-ICSSR research – How can research link with policy makers/policy community and communities of practice ..etc. Sharing research interests and initiating collaborations

Day 2 Interdisciplinary Research Skills – Approaches for researching vulnerable populations – Using bibliometric approaches to take stock of research output – Critical appraisal of research reports on Migration and health – Policy perspectives on Migration & Health Group work: Developing a collaborative project

Day 3 Amplifying learnings for transformative agenda in migration, health & intersectional rights – ‘So what?’ – Political and Ethical questions in researching migrants – Evidence and policy links – Charting policyscapes for migration and health Group work: Peer review of project proposals and firming up mentorship arrangements


[1] Alsaba, K., & Kapilashrami, A. (2016). Understanding women’s experience of violence and the political economy of gender in conflict: the case of Syria. Reproductive health matters, 24(47), 5-17. [2] Bürkner, H. J. (2012). Intersectionality: How gender studies might inspire the analysis of social inequality among migrants. Population, space and place, 18(2), 181-195. [3] Kapilashrami, A. & Hankivsky, O. (2018) Intersectionality and why it matters to global health. The Lancet. 391(10140): 2589-91 [4] Langer A, Meleis A, Knaul FM, et al. (2015) Women and Health: the key for sustainable development. The Lancet; 386: 1165– 210. [5] Nawyn, S. J. (2010). Gender and migration: Integrating feminist theory into migration studies. Sociology Compass, 4(9), 749- 765. [6] Zimmerman, C., Kiss, L., & Hossain, M. (2011). Migration and health: a framework for 21st century policy-making. PLOS medicine, 8(5), e1001034.

International Consultation on Pre-Departure Health Assessments

The International Consultation on Pre-departure Health Assessments was held from 26th to 27th September 2017.  Hosted by the Sri Lanka Ministry of Health with assistance from IOM, this successful event was attended by more than 80 academics, government representatives, and medical officers.

Some participants from the consultation also had the opportunity to further engage at the two-day Migrant Health and Development Research Initiative (MHADRI) Global Network Member Meeting held from 28th to 29th September. This international partnership of academic, policy and operational organizations provides research-based programming in the field of migration health. The MHADRI event provided a valuable opportunity to present the recommendations from the International Consultation on Pre-departure Health Assessments.

Read more about the meeting and access background materials and presentations here.


Participants of the International Consultation on Pre-Departure Health Assessment

[EVENT] 25th October 2018: Primary health care for the health of migrants

Side event to the Global Conference on Primary Health Care, Astana, Kazakhstan

 Primary health care for the health of migrants – the economic argument

25 October 2018, 12:45 – 13:45

Independence Palace, Astana, Kazakhstan, 1st floor, Room 3


Co-organized by IOM Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, WHO Regional Office for Europe and the Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan



Access of refugees and migrants to health services is often framed within a human rights’ discourse. The right to the highest sustainable standard of health is recognised in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and in other international treaties and conventions. The importance of health and well-being are also shown by the central place they hold within the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) – SDG Goal 3, Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. When it comes to refugees and migrants, two pivotal documents are the World Health Assembly Resolutions 61.17 and 70.15, which urge the Member States to consider promoting the framework of priorities and guiding principles to promote the health of refugees and migrants. A WHO global action plan to promote the health of refugees and migrants is currently being developed in consultation with the countries. Governments in many regions have acknowledged the need to address the health needs and vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants to enhance health equity and security. Excluding migrants from health provisions not only results in health risks for the individual, and violations of migrants’ rights, but also poses risks for the broader attainment of public health objectives.

Fewer approaches put the discussion into the social and an economic perspective. Therefore, this event aims at sharing studies and country experiences that addressed the socioeconomic aspect of improving access of migrants to health care, regardless of their migration status, be it for legislative or practical reasons. The main argument is saving costs for health systems, through the migrant-inclusive delivery of preventive and basic health services for the benefit of the community. It is not just about the lowest costs through primary health care, but the economic optimisation model based on cost-effectiveness – maximum social and health outcomes. Therefore, this event looks at Primary Health Care as the minimum package of health care services that should be made available for all refugees and migrants. As will be shown, this economic optimisation model is not contradictory to a rights-based approach, but both perspectives will be integrated into the discussion.


Opening remarks

  • Ms Jacqueline Weekers, Director of the Migration Health Division, IOM
  • Dr Santino Severoni, Coordinator, Migration and Health programme, WHO Regional Office for Europe
  • Mr Alexander Tsoy, Vice Minister, Ministry of Healthcare of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Expert speakers

  • Dr Ursula Trummer, Center for Health and Migration, Austria
  • Dr Kai Hong Phua, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore

Country contributions

  • Mr Stamatis Vardaros, Secretary General for Primary Health Care, Ministry of Health of Greece
  • Bekir Keskinkılıç, Deputy General Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health of Turkey
  • Dr Panuwat Pankate, Dept. of Health Service Support, Ministry of Public Health of Thailand

Closing statement by the organizers

Moderator: Dr Jaime Calderon, Regional Migration Health Adviser, IOM Regional Office for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia


Expert speakers

Dr Ursula TRUMMER (PhD Sociology, MA Socioeconomic Sciences, MSc Organisational Development) is Head of the Center for Health and Migration in Vienna. She has been working on health and migration since 2000, when she coordinated the “Migrant Friendly Hospital” Initiative on service and quality development for European Hospitals. She held responsible for design and implementation of a database on models of good practice for health care for undocumented migrants in the EU. She was European principle investigator in the Asia-Europe Study on Social and Economic costs of excluding vulnerable migrant groups from health care (ASEF 2014) and the thematic study on cost analysis of health care provisions to migrants and ethnic minorities” (2016) as part of the EQUI-Health project conducted by IOM and co-funded by DG Sanco. She is a national delegate to several COST Actions (Health and Migration, Ageing Societies, Intergenerational Family Solidarity) and Member of the Management Committee of the Migration Health and Development Research Initiative (MHADRI) Global Network.


Dr Kai Hong PHUA is a Visiting Professor to the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy, as an adjunct faculty at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore, and was previously Associate Professor and Head of Health Services Research at the Department of Community, Occupational & Family Medicine and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, Singapore. He graduated from the Harvard School of Public Health in Health Services Administration and Population Sciences, and the London School of Economics & Political Science (PhD on the development of health services in Malaysia and Singapore). Dr Phua is currently serving on the WHO Expert Committee on Economics of Health Ageing, Geneva, and Fees Benchmark Committee, Ministry of Health, Singapore. He has conducted numerous executive education and training programmes throughout the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East on healthcare reforms, financing and health systems management.


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