Edited by Henriette Sinding Aasen, Siri Gloppen, Anne-Mette Magnussen and Even Nilssen
Chapter 9: ‘Undocumented’ migrants’ access to health care services in Europe: tensions between international human rights, national law and professional ethics
The right to health is enshrined in several human rights instruments, most comprehensively in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Legal and de facto access to available health care services in modern welfare states is an important aspect of social citizenship, which is understood as the state’s regulations of opportunities for citizens to exercise their autonomy and to participate in social and political life. Without access to health care services, citizens lose many opportunities for social and political participation, in addition to suffering physical and mental hardship. All European countries have developed national health care systems, either tax based or insurance based, to allow citizens access to necessary health care services. Within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA), EU and EEA citizens have a right to European Health Insurance, which provides access to necessary state-provided health care during a temporary stay in any EU and EEA country. In addition, persons recognized as asylum seekers are often entitled to health care from their host countries and are thereby granted this aspect of modern citizenship. In this chapter, we explore the right to health care services for ‘undocumented’ migrants, who have no legal right to stay in a country and thus cannot claim rights as ordinary citizens or as asylum seekers. Their ‘undocumented’ status exposes them to specific health risks and represents a significant barrier to public health care access.
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