PSI Arab subregion Reaffirms Migrants’ Right to Health

Public Services International (PSI) Arab Subregion, together with its affiliates in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), commemorate International Migrants Day by reaffirming the right to healthcare for all migrants regardless of legal status.

The right to the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health is a fundamental right of every human being.

Governments and the international community have the obligation to protect, promote and defend this right. Commitments at the global and regional levels have been established in support of this right.

For example, the UN Global Compact on Migration emphasizes access to basic services for all migrants, which includes access to healthcare. The World Health Organization has the Global Action Plan on Promoting the Health of Refugees and Migrants, synchronised with the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly targeting universal health coverage (UHC). Furthermore, in February of this year, United Nations Member States, international organizations, civil society and various actors came together in Marrakech for the Third Global Consultation on the Health of Refugees and Migrants, where participants reaffirmed the right to health of every human being, without distinction of any kind, and outlined commitments for migrant and refugee health in the Rabat Declaration.

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Middle East and North Africa countries – MENA – are host countries to some 40 million migrants. A majority of these migrant workers are low-wage workers who contribute substantially to the labour force of their destination countries and send vital remittances to their families and communities in the origin countries. Many of them face a number of decent work challenges, they lack social protection and have limited access to healthcare. In the MENA region, the informal sector comprises around 60 % of the total labor force and within this sector, the majority are migrant workers who work in temporary and precarious work and are deprived of access to public healthcare and social protection.

MENA is also the scene of forced displacement caused by climate change and conflicts. The war in Gaza that erupted on 7th of October, after the attack of Hamas, led to the displacement of 80% of the people of Gaza, where about 17,000 people to date have been killed, including at least 160 healthcare workers killed whilst on duty.

[we] defend the rights of migrants to decent work and their right to join trade unions

Healthcare workers represented by the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza, affiliated to PSI, who are working in the Gaza Strip, as well as those working in the West Bank, and with the United Nations Relief Workers Agency (UNRWA), are working under heavy bombardments, with limited supplies, a scarcity of resources, understaffing and significant occupational health and safety risks including being attacked, and are dying from gunfire while saving lives. This is a clear violation of human rights, notwithstanding the right to health that is enshrined in international law.

PSI affiliates in the MENA region defend the rights of migrants to decent work and their right to join trade unions. Under the PSI’s Project on Human Rights, Trade Unions and Quality Public Services for Migrants and Refugees in the MENA Region, supported by Union to Union and the PSI Swedish affiliates,  public service unions were able to establish trade union focal points for migrants and refugees, organised them into the unions, including undocumented migrants, defended their access to public healthcare including to covid vaccines during the time of the pandemic. They have built alliances with civil society on migrant and refugee rights, critically examining the root causes of forced migration, advocating for climate justice, a just and equitable transition, mobilising for peace and for the right of peoples to human dignity, freedom and self-determination.

Finally, in these troubled times of war atrocities in Palestine that is driving forced displacement and migration, we call for a ceasefire, the opening of humanitarian corridors, a return to dialogue, and respect for the United Nations resolutions to establish a just and lasting peace.