International Migrants Day is celebrated on 18th December each year.
Refugee: “Any person who … owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.
Migrant: “Any person who changes his or her country of usual residence” and this definition includes any people who are moving or have moved across an international border, regardless of legal status, duration of the stay abroad and causes for migration.”
In addition to the definitions above, there are internally displaced people who are internal migrants (those migrating from one province to another within a country). Internal migrants share similar problems and challenges as international migrants.
More than 1 billion people are on the move globally, about 1 in 8 of the global population.
Of this total, 281 million people are international migrants and 84 million are forcibly displaced (48 million are internally displaced, 26.6 million are refugees, 4.4 million are asylum seekers). Among the forcibly displaced, 35 million are children and 1 million were born into refugee life.
The number of people on the move is expected to grow due to
- lack of security,
- lack of access to basic services,
- environmental degradation, and
Migration could both improve or diminish an individual’s health status. Refugees and migrants often face worse health outcomes in countries of transit and destination due to barriers including language and cultural differences, institutional discrimination and restricted use of health services.
Social, political and economic exclusion can result in poverty, homelessness and exploitation, which can create a higher risk for noncommunicable diseases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in certain populations, which may include refugees and migrants, particularly those in irregular situations.
Migrants may be given a migration status that limits their entitlement and access to essential services, including health care. However, international law guarantees universal access in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular with Sustainable Development Goal 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages).
Although governed by separate legal frameworks, refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms as other people.
Link to the related WHO news release:
Link to WHO fact sheet on refugee and migrant health:
Link to WHO Question and Answer page on refugee and migrant health: