Social determinants

Migrants' health

The plight of thousands of migrants putting their lives in peril to cross the Mediterranean is an immediate priority for the European Commission. No EU country can or should be left alone to face these huge pressures.

The European agenda on migration sets out the European response to this crisis. In 2015 and 2016, the EU allocated more than €10 billion to address the crisis.

Proposals for reforms to EU law

In June 2016, the Commission adopted an action plan on better integrating non-EU migrants that includes several health proposals and approved a proposal to reform the Blue Card Directive. This will help the EU to attract and retain highly skilled non-EU nationals, including healthcare professionals. The proposed changes will also allow refugees to apply for a Blue Card.

In July 2016, the Commission approved proposals to reform the common European asylum system, including 3 measures affecting migrant healthcare:

  1. the Asylum Procedures Regulation
  2. the Qualifications Regulation
  3. the Reception Conditions Directive


The Commission’s immediate priority is to provide support to countries that host high numbers of migrants. Most migrants are healthy when they arrive in the EU, but they can be affected by conditions and factors before their travel and during their journey. They may be suffering from physical exhaustion, extreme distress, dehydration or cold, for example, and this can be combined with other issues such as non adequate living conditions or unhealthy lifestyles (inadequate nutrition, smoking or other) that could have an impact on their physical and mental health. They may also suffer from chronic diseases.

What is the EU doing to help?

  • Provides financial support for:
    • improving healthcare for vulnerable migrants
    • integrating migrants into national healthcare systems
    • training healthcare professionals.

The EU provided €7.2 million in 2015 to support EU countries facing particularly high levels of migration in responding to health-related challenges. It expects to provide €7.5 million in 2016 for sharing best practices on healthcare models for vulnerable migrants, and training health professionals and enforcement officers.

Developing projects

The EU has been working to address inequalities in healthcare, including migrant health issues, since 2003. It has carried out projects to measure differences in health and access to healthcare and to help integrate migrants into national healthcare systems.