Clinical outcomes and risk factors for COVID-19 among migrant populations in high-income countries: A systematic review

J Migr Health. 2021;3:100041. doi: 10.1016/j.jmh.2021.100041. Epub 2021 Apr 22.


Background: Migrants in high-income countries may be at increased risk of COVID-19 due to their health and social circumstances, yet the extent to which they are affected and their predisposing risk factors are not clearly understood. We did a systematic review to assess clinical outcomes of COVID-19 in migrant populations, indirect health and social impacts, and to determine key risk factors.

Methods: We did a systematic review following PRISMA guidelines (PROSPERO CRD42020222135). We searched multiple databases to 18/11/2020 for peer-reviewed and grey literature on migrants (foreign-born) and COVID-19 in 82 high-income countries. We used our international networks to source national datasets and grey literature. Data were extracted on primary outcomes (cases, hospitalisations, deaths) and we evaluated secondary outcomes on indirect health and social impacts and risk factors using narrative synthesis.

Results: 3016 data sources were screened with 158 from 15 countries included in the analysis (35 data sources for primary outcomes: cases [21], hospitalisations [4]; deaths [15]; 123 for secondary outcomes). We found that migrants are at increased risk of infection and are disproportionately represented among COVID-19 cases. Available datasets suggest a similarly disproportionate representation of migrants in reported COVID-19 deaths, as well as increased all-cause mortality in migrants in some countries in 2020. Undocumented migrants, migrant health and care workers, and migrants housed in camps have been especially affected. Migrants experience risk factors including high-risk occupations, overcrowded accommodation, and barriers to healthcare including inadequate information, language barriers, and reduced entitlement.

Conclusions: Migrants in high-income countries are at high risk of exposure to, and infection with, COVID-19. These data are of immediate relevance to national public health and policy responses to the pandemic. Robust data on testing uptake and clinical outcomes in migrants, and barriers and facilitators to COVID-19 vaccination, are urgently needed, alongside strengthening engagement with diverse migrant groups.