Right of access to health care for undocumented migrants in EU: a comparative study of national policies

Eur J Public Health. 2012 Apr;22(2):267-71. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckr049. Epub 2011 Jun 9.


Background: The aim of this article is to characterize policies regarding the right of access to health care for undocumented migrants in the 27 Member States of the European Union and to identify the extent to which these entitlements are congruent with human rights standards.

Methods: The study is based on a questionnaire sent to experts, non-governmental organizations and authorities in the Member States between April and December 2009, as well as on available reports and official websites. Primary sources were also consulted as regards legislation.

Results: Right of access to health care differs considerably between Member States. States can be grouped into 3 clusters: in 5 countries undocumented migrants have the right to access care that is more extensive than emergency care; in 12 countries they can only access emergency care and in 10 countries not even emergency care can be accessed. These variations are independent of the system of financing or the numbers of undocumented migrants present. Rather, they seem to relate to the intersection between practices of control of migration, the main types of undocumented migrants present and the basic norms of the welfare state-the 'moral economy' of the work society.

Conclusion: International obligations articulated in human rights standards are not fully met in the majority of Member States. A more complete understanding of the differing policies might be obtained by considering the relationship between the formal and informal economy, as well as the role of human rights standards within the current 'moral economy'.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • European Union / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Human Rights / standards*
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*