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The Network, Stakeholders Advocate for Inclusive and Equitable Access to Healthcare for Migrants

Geneva – On the second UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) held today (21/09), the UN Network on Migration recalls the commitments outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to achieving universal health coverage and in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in which States committed to incorporate the health needs of migrants into healthcare policies and plans and provide affordable and non-discriminatory access to quality healthcare.

Migrants contribute to the social and economic development of communities and societies, including as co-developers and providers of health services. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the severe and disproportionate impact restricted access to health and basic services has had on migrants.

Challenges, including increased exposure to the virus, discrimination, violence, job losses, wage theft and family separation underscored the urgent need to address the public health aspects of migration, as a matter of human rights, and to build safe, flourishing societies.

Throughout the pandemic, many States have worked towards ensuring the safety of all individuals, regardless of migration status, in their response and recovery efforts. In line with the GCM, particularly its Objective 15, nearly 40% of Member States implemented a universal approach to health, encompassing everyone, including migrants, yet there remains a crucial need to make these approaches permanent and sustainable.

In 2019, the UHC political declaration recognized the specific needs of, and vulnerabilities faced by migrants, regarding health and psychological care. The 2022 International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) Progress Declaration saw States commit to ensuring that migrants, regardless of their migration status, have access to health services and continuity of care, in alignment with UHC principles. Additionally, there is a commitment to involve migrants in policy discussions on matters that affect them, including the forthcoming high-level meeting on UHC.

The Network’s workstream, "Preparing for Future Health Emergencies by Mainstreaming Public Health Considerations into Migration Policies and Services, at National and Local Levels", co-led by WHO, UCLG and UNMGCY,  was established to support the realization of these commitments. Following the organization of a global dialogue – GCM Talk –between Member States, UN system and stakeholder representatives with close to 450 participants to inform the negotiations of the political declaration of the UHC, several policy recommendations were made.

As governments attend the high-level event on UHC, the UN Network on Migration highlights the need to:

  • Ensure that no one is left behind, with an endeavor to reach the furthest behind first, and address the physical and mental health needs of all, while respecting and promoting human rights and the dignity of the person and the principles of equality and non-discrimination, as well as empowering those who are in vulnerable situations, which might include migrants;
  • Foster equitable access to basic services regardless of migration status, including by ensuring that firewalls are erected between health service providers and immigration authorities, promote primary healthcare as the foundation of UHC, and focus on health promotion and disease prevention;
  • Invest in the health workforce with training, skills development, and supportive working environments to deliver effective and migrant-sensitive care;
  • Accelerate efforts, at all levels, to integrate public health considerations into migration policies and incorporate the health needs of migrants in national and local health-care services, policies and plans in ways which are transparent, equitable, non-discriminatory, people-centred, race- and gender-responsive, disability-inclusive, and child-sensitive; and,
  • Strengthen national and local-level political commitment from parliamentarians, decision-makers, and policymakers to advance UHC with full involvement of migrants in shaping the health services they receive and designing health interventions that benefit them.

The Network calls on all Member States to consider these recommendations and learn from successful practices (also to be found on the Migration Network Hub) to ensure the well-being of migrants and promote universal access to healthcare for all.

If you are working on an initiative to further these objectives, please submit your practice as an example of GCM implementation here

If you are planning an initiative to advance these objectives, please submit your pledge here.

For more information, please contact:

UN Network on Migration (secretariat)
Florence Kim at: or +41797480395

*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).