The reluctance of many countries to offer help and support to refugees and migrants has been deplored by the World Medical Association (WMA).
Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, physician leaders at the WMA Council said that the development of barriers was not a solution to this crisis. They passed a resolution condemning the circumstances that force those moving between countries to further hardship with an uncertain end, and declaring ‘The concept that treating migrants harshly will discourage future migrants is both absurd and inhumane.'
Delegates from 35 national medical associations also deplored the stigmatization, bigotry and bias in some of the worlds' media in reporting the refugee and migrant issue. It demanded that media outlets treat this issue with honesty and integrity and properly reflect the human concerns faced by individual migrants and refugees.
The meeting urged governments and local authorities to ensure access to adequate healthcare as well as safe and adequate living conditions for all regardless of their legal status. It reaffirmed WMA policy that physicians have a duty to provide appropriate medical care regardless of the civil or political status of the patient, and governments should not deny patients the right to receive such care, nor should they interfere with physicians' obligation to administer treatment on the basis of clinical need alone.
WMA President Sir Michael Marmot said: ‘We are greatly concerned about the considerable health problems facing migrants and refugees, with long periods of poor nutrition and appalling lack of shelter. So we are demanding that destination countries ensure that migrants and refugees get access to medical services on a par with their settled population. In particular, there must be adequate mental health services to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychosocial disorders.