On migrationand displacement!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Crowds of people on the move with their bundles of possessions, young men frantically scaling fences, boatloads of women and children pummelled by the waves, bodies washed up the beach, camps with endless rows of tents and chaotic shanty towns stretching as far as the eye can see, transit centres where hopes fade, humiliated workers forced to do jobs nobody else wants, mothers waiting a lifetime in vain for news of daughters or sons who left to seek their fortune elsewhere.

These are some of the images that might come to mind when picturing the plight of uprooted people around the world. Several months ago, the attention of Europe and the world was focused on the crisis that began to unfold in 2015 as millions of Africans, Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis attempted to cross the Mediterranean, fleeing conflict and poverty.

 The crisis continues but the media spotlight has shifted to the ordeal suffered by people displaced from the cities of Iraq and Syria and to US migration policy, in particular the plans to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

It must put at the back of minds that persistent myths about migrants and refugees have been allowed to propagate unchallenged in political discourse. And migrants contribute more to the wealth of host societies than they cost, and migrants have lower mortality than their host populations.

This new WHO Report on Global Migration represent positive moves in an area of global health featuring some of the world’s most maligned and at-risk populations. Too often, however, the voices of the migrants and refugees themselves are silenced in the conversation. Migrants and refugees clearly have vital contributions to make in the debate over their treatment and health, but, frustratingly, the dialogue surrounding them seems limited to those in positions of institutional power. We urge political leaders to privilege migrants as essential participants in the public conversation about their important contributions to the health of our societies.

As we write, the headlines are dominated by the situation in Myanmar and its neighbouring countries as an entire people flees. On the other hand, there are other places in Africa, Central and South America, where such crises do not make headlines. The never-ending string of such dramas and the masses of people uprooted from their homes on a scale not witnessed since the Second World War have prompted the Review to devote another issue to the topic of displacement and migration. It still and continues to be a talking point in many cities, especially with the new waves of North America.

A Guest Editorial