An immigrant gets medical care at a former paper mill in Greece, which has become a preparatory camp. Menelaos Michalatos…
Menelaos Michalatos / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
A new report from a commission initiated by University College London and Lancet medical journal provides a thorough – and often surprising – look at the medical and economic consequences of immigration.
Twenty public health researchers from 13 countries worked on the project for two years and examined almost 300 studies, mostly from this decade, but went back as far as 1994. Popularist leaders, they say, have painted a picture of migration today, primarily hordes of poor people flooding in rich countries who carry diseases and absorb resources. The truth, they say, are very different.
According to the International Migration Organization, the U.N. Migration Bureau, more than one billion people live in a different region from where they were born. A quarter of them live in another country, the rest has moved within their home country. They are a mix of refugees from war-torn areas, refugees from refugee refugees, refugee heat waves, drought or rising sea levels, jobseekers and students who have paid to enroll in universities in other countries.
Commission a wide network, look at studies and analyzes on anthropology, law, health, finance and more. “There are consistent evidence from several disciplines that a number of myths that have been systematically used to motivate prejudices against immigrants are not really ruled out by facts,” said Ibrahim Abubakar, Head of the Institute for Global Health at UCL, and President of the Commission.
“The Commission has done a great job of bringing together what we know and some of the needs we are dealing with,” said Mesfin Teklu Tessema, who heads the health unit of the International Rescue Committee.
Here are some of the key points considered by the report.
Spread migrants infectious diseases?
It is an idea of immigrants – most recently with the allegations that the immigrant carriage in Mexico is bearing leprosy, tuberculosis and smallpox (as declared in 1980).
Finding information about the incidence of infectious diseases in immigrant groups was a challenge to the Commission, as many immigrants and refugees arrive to other countries without permission. “They do not want to be seen and heard and counted,” says Paul Spiegel, a commissioner and head of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University. Spiegel and the other commissioners say there is no evidence of a major problem. Two studies with more than half a million immigrants to Britain and Norway showed that immigrants have higher tuberculosis than locals but do not seem to transfer TB to their new neighbors.
Is immigrant a burden on local health systems?
Not immigrants who move to high-income countries. They have a lower mortality rate than the locals. Provision sites studies show that over the years and over age groups there are proportionally fewer deaths among immigrants. They are less likely to die of heart disease, cancer and other common conditions. There was not enough data to say if the same applies to migrants to low and middle income countries.
Commissioners list several possible factors for survival, including the possibility that healthier people are more likely to migrate than sicker, so that the immigrant population may be healthier in the first place.
In addition, immigrants give an advantage to healthcare systems by providing key people. “One of the things that the report clearly states is that high-income countries are highly dependent on low-income migrants from healthcare, education and care of grandparents,” said Commissioner Terry McGovern. U.K., where foreign doctors can test and qualify for training, is a striking example. A quarter of doctors in the National Health Service (NHS) are not British-born, and politicians are worried that fewer foreign doctors, as a result of the move to leave the European Union – generally considered an immigration poll – may want to live in or migrate to UK These opportunities threaten the already understaffed NHS.
But refugees flying in difficult situations – less than 10 percent of the total immigrant community – present challenges regarding mental health problems. They had about twice the occurrence of depression and anxiety as immigrants move for employment.
A research study that accompanies the report that migration has a mental health effect on family members who are left. It shows that children who do not go with their moving parents are 50 percent more likely to develop depression than other children. They are also more likely to get anxiety and suicidal thoughts and to use drugs.
Has there been a sudden jump in migration?
Although the number of immigrants in the world is record high, the rate of immigration has not increased dramatically. It was 2.9 percent of the world’s population in 1990, and last year it was 3.4 percent. And immigrants who are refugees do not target rich countries, mainly because they live in the first safe place they can reach.
“Migration data tells me that more people from low and middle income countries migrate within their own countries and regions than across high-income countries, even though vocal rhetoric means something else,” said the commissioners.
Is their birth rate on the high side?
Another result that violates political rhetoric once upon a time, migrants do not have many children. The commissioners found that immigrants have fewer children than the locals – barely replace at 2.1 birth per woman.
What about the economic consequences of accepting migrants?
The report says there is an overwhelming agreement among economic analysts that immigrants add economies to high income countries and help people at home too. For example, a 2016 report from the International Monetary Fund claims that in the long term, both high and low skilled migrants to rich countries will improve the economies of these countries, so that with an annual increase in immigrants’ population can increase by 1 percent increase GDP up to 2 percent.
Refunds sent back to low and middle income countries are an important source of support for people who are left. Of the $ 613 billion returned home last year, three quarters went to low and middle income countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Joanne Silberner, a former health policy correspondent for NPR, is a freelance journalist living in London.