Diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis in undocumented migrants in low- or intermediate-incidence countries

Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2008 Aug;12(8):878-88.


Setting: Countries with low or intermediate tuberculosis (TB) incidence.

Objectives: 1) To gather information on individuals and TB patients who are undocumented migrants and their access to TB diagnostic and treatment services; 2)to discuss interventions to strengthen diagnosis and treatment and 3) to formulate recommendations on how to ensure adequate TB prevention and control.

Design: Questionnaires sent to members of the Working Group (WG) on Transborder Migration and TB, managers of national TB programmes and EuroTB correspondents; literature research and development of a paper by a writing committee through consultation.

Results: Undocumented migrants represent 5-30% of immigrants and 5-10% of TB cases. Most countries reported full access to diagnosis and treatment, but in practice there were limitations. Most countries also reported that they could and did deport cases who were on TB treatment. A variety of activities to ensure access were reported from different countries.

Conclusion: The WG recommends that 1) health authorities and/or health staff should ensure easy access to low-threshold facilities where undocumented migrants who are TB suspects can be diagnosed and treated without giving their names and without fear of being reported to the police or migration officials. Health authorities should remind health staff that they have an obligation of confidentiality; 2) each country should ensure that undocumented migrants with TB are not deported until completion of treatment; and 3) authorities and non-governmental sectors should raise awareness among undocumented migrants about TB, emphasising that diagnosis and treatment should be free of charge and wholly independent of migratory status.

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Humans
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology