Joint IOM-JUNIMA Side Event at the Asia-Pacific Preparatory Meeting for the 2013 High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, 31 May 2013

Report on the Side Event:

Healthy Migrants, Healthy Communities: The Importance of Addressing Health and Gender Aspects of Migration

The purpose of the Side Event was to raise awareness on the importance of addressing health and gender concerns of migrants, and to encourage UN member states to include these important topics in the discussions of the HLD to be held in New York, October 2013. The event, chaired by UNFPA's Technical Adviser on Population and Development, Christophe Lefranc, comprised of four presentations which brought representatives from civil society, governments, and international organisations to present and discuss the relevance of migrant rights associated with gender and health, including sexual & reproductive health to the debates on the 2013 HLD in New York and the post-2015 human development agenda.

The first presentation was presented as a joint presentation by Jacqueline Weekers on behalf of International agencies IOM, JUNIMA, UNFPA, WHO, and the CSO – ARROW. The presentation on Healthy Migrants, Healthy Communities, Healthy Economies highlighted the importance of the relationship between the effective management of public health and improved outcomes for migrants, and how this heightens economic and social development at the community level. The presentation expressed the need for countries to develop their own migration health agenda that will promote policies and frameworks at all stages of the migration cycle.

On behalf of the CSO ARROW,[1] the regional coordinator of the Coalition of Asia-Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS, Maria Lourdes Marin, presented on why Gender and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights should be integrated in the international migration discussions. She highlighted the need to integrate human rights in the public health practices of origin, transit, destination, and return countries, and for migrant-positive policies and frameworks to advance equitable access to sexual and reproductive health services. Discriminatory policies that inhibit migrants to work, travel, or establish residence based on health grounds, such as pregnancy or HIV, should be reviewed and steadily abolished.

The two presentations shared concerns that data collection and monitoring of SRH status of migrants should improve, along with increased sharing of best practices and information. Most importantly, the CSOs indicated, along with the agencies and representatives, that international cooperation and commitment is needed to ensure that gender-sensitive migration health policies and programmes are raised between migrant sending and receiving countries.

The side event also included two country perspectives on addressing the health of migrants in the UN HLD on International Migration and Development.

In terms of the Sri Lankan experience, Dr H.S.R. Perera of the Ministry of Health highlighted that at the national level it is important to promote a focal point in ministries of Public Health to promote changes to legal frameworks to adapt and adopt policies. She also indicated that the development of defined indicators to measure the progress of migrant health, and social impacts, on nations due to migration is needed. Regionally, opportunities to discuss common issues need to be stimulated, sharing of best practice and inter sectoral communication is necessary at the community and Ministry levels. At the global level, monitoring the health of migrants is vital along with assessing the impacts of migration to host countries in order to improve migrant situations through
international cooperation and dialogue.

Dr Pornpet Panjapiyakul from the Bureau of Health Administration of the Ministry of Public Health – Thailand, detailed some up-to-date adaptations and movements in policies and frameworks dedicated towards migrant health. The MoPH has been focusing on registering semi-legal workers to promote the benefits of registration into the Thai system. It was highlighted that the government of Thailand aims to improve the design of policies and decision making through improved participation of migrant health workers. Improving access to health care for registered migrants in Thailand is an important strategy of the administration. The aim is to provide services and schemes to migrants that are available in the universal health coverage programmes of Thailand, in a cost
effective manner. Dr Panjapiyakul indicated that National Migrant Policies have the backing of the Cabinet and will turn to focus not just on registered migrants, but their families and children also. The theme of multi-Ministry coordination repeatedly arose throughout the side event. Dr Panjapiyakul stressed that issues surrounding teenage pregnancies, trafficking, child labour, and gender based violence would be at the focus of the cross-ministry dialogues.

From the outcomes of each presentation it was seen that there is significant need for multi-sector partnerships, engagement, and commitment of multiple actors. It is hoped that the UN GA recognises the significance of migrants health for development at HLD in New York 2013, and also that the GFMD will recommend acting on migrant health. Following on from this it is hoped that migrant health will be addressed in the 2015 post MDG agenda and that countries implement the WHO resolution 61.17 'Health of migrants' and ultimately present progress reports at the 67th WHA in 2014.


[1] ARROW’s involvement in the side event is supported by IDRC.