Access to Healthcare for Migrant Patients in Europe: Healthcare Discrimination and Translation Services

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 26;18(15):7901. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18157901.


Background: Discrimination based on ethnicity and the lack of translation services in healthcare have been identified as main barriers to healthcare access. However, the actual experiences of migrant patients in Europe are rarely present in the literature.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess healthcare discrimination as perceived by migrants themselves and the availability of translation services in the healthcare systems of Europe.

Methods: A total of 1407 migrants in 10 European Union countries (consortium members of the Mig-HealthCare project) were surveyed concerning healthcare discrimination, access to healthcare services, and need of translation services using an interviewer-administered questionnaire. Migrants in three countries were excluded from the analysis, due to small sample size, and the new sample consisted of N = 1294 migrants. Descriptive statistics and multivariable regression analyses were conducted to investigate the risk factors on perceived healthcare discrimination for migrants and refugees in the EU.

Results: Mean age was 32 (±11) years and 816 (63.26%) participants were males. The majority came from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, and Iran. Older migrants reported better treatment experience. Migrants in Italy (0.191; 95% CI [0.029, 0.352]) and Austria (0.167; 95% CI [0.012, 0.323]) scored higher in the Discrimination Scale to Medical Settings (DMS) compared with Spain. Additionally, migrants with better mental health scored lower in the DMS scale (0.994; 95% CI [0.993, 0.996]), while those with no legal permission in Greece tended to perceive more healthcare discrimination compared with migrants with some kind of permission (1.384; 95% CI [1.189, 1.611]), as opposed to Austria (0.763; 95% CI [0.632, 0.922]). Female migrants had higher odds of needing healthcare assistance but not being able to access them compared with males (1.613; 95% CI [1.183, 2.199]). Finally, migrants with chronic problems had the highest odds of needing and not having access to healthcare services compared with migrants who had other health problems (3.292; 95% CI [1.585, 6.837]).

Conclusions: Development of culturally sensitive and linguistically diverse healthcare services should be one of the main aims of relevant health policies and strategies at the European level in order to respond to the unmet needs of the migrant population.

Keywords: discrimination; healthcare access; migrant patients; translation services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Refugees*
  • Syria
  • Transients and Migrants*