Medical repatriation of migrant farm workers in Ontario: a descriptive analysis

CMAJ Open. 2014 Jul 22;2(3):E192-8. doi: 10.9778/cmajo.20140014. eCollection 2014 Jul.


Background: Approximately 40 000 migrant farm workers are employed annually in Canada through temporary foreign worker programs. Workers experiencing health conditions that prevent ongoing work are normally repatriated to their home country, which raises concerns about human rights and health equity. In this study, we present data on the reasons for medical repatriation of migrant farm workers in Ontario.

Methods: In this retrospective descriptive study, we examined medical repatriation data from Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, a non-profit corporation managing the contracts of more than 15 000 migrant farm workers in Ontario annually. We extracted repatriation and demographic data for workers from 2001-2011. Physician volunteers used a validated system to code the reported reasons for medical repatriation. We conducted descriptive analyses of the dominant reasons for repatriation and rates of repatriation.

Results: During 2001-2011, 787 repatriations occurred among 170 315 migrant farm workers arriving in Ontario (4.62 repatriations per 1000 workers). More than two-thirds of repatriated workers were aged 30-49 years. Migrant farm workers were most frequently repatriated for medical or surgical reasons (41.3%) and external injuries including poisoning (25.5%).

Interpretation: This study provides quantitative health data related to a unique and vulnerable occupational group. Our findings reinforce existing knowledge regarding occupational hazards and health conditions among migrant farm workers. Medical repatriation of migrant farm workers merits further examination as a global health equity concern.