Migrants’ access to services

Access to services, including education, health-care and legal services, can be a particular challenge for many migrants, including the young, the elderly and women who are more vulnerable to abuse, violence, exploitation, and discrimination. This challenge becomes even more significant if the migrants are in an irregular situation. 

Female migrants are often found working in the service and welfare sectors in traditionally female occupations. Those in unregulated and the informal sectors of the economy are at greater risk of exploitation and abuse including harsh working and living conditions, low wages, illegal withholding of wages, and illegal and premature termination of employment. Many lack access to legal and much-needed health services. Access to appropriate and affordable health-care services is especially important. Of particular concern are the many young women who fall prey to traffickers and are afraid to seek medical treatment.

Among the main challenges to comprehensively address the sexual and reproductive health needs among migrants are 1) irregular status and no access to health insurance, limited access to public services, services that are usually obtained privately, including from traditional practitioners, with concomitant risks; 2) negative service provider attitudes, stigma and discrimination towards migrants in general, and HIV positive, AIDS victims and sex workers in particular; 3) services for migrants which tend to focus on prevention and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and HIV only. Services should be client friendly, age and gender-appropriate, and take into account cultural and linguistic differences. 

Many developing countries do not have the capacity and resources to provide the necessary services to meet the needs of migrants. This is especially true when they are faced with sudden large forced migration flows that put additional burdens on local services.

Age and gender-specific migration data and analysis, and the exchange of good practices in meeting the needs of migrants are essential to inform policy and programming planning. 

There is an urgent need to mainstream migration into national development planning and promote migration-sensitive policies. It is essential to ensure that migrants have equitable access to legal and health services. Service providers who work with migrants must be sensitized and properly trained to understand and address migrant needs taking cultural, linguistic, age and gender needs into account.