Right to Healthcare of Refugee & International Convention

Who is Refugee?

Refugee is defined as a person who “Owing to a tenable concern of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a selected grouping or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, because of such concern, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country or come back there as a result of there’s a concern of ill-usage[1]

Burundi Emergency, Europe Situation in 2015, Venezuela Crisis, South Sudan Crisis, Central African Republic (CAR) Crisis, Iraq Situation, Rohingya Crisis are some major refugee crises around the world.

Key Aspects of Right to Health

The right to health is a comprehensive right :

We  actually associate the right to health with access to health care and also the building of hospitals , however this right extends to more. It includes various factors which will help every human to  lead a healthy life. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the body responsible for monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  • Calls these the “underlying  determinants of health”. They include:
  • Safe drinking water and  sanitation;
  • Safe food;
  • Adequate nutrition and housing;
  • Healthy working and environment
  • Health-related education and information;

The right to health contains freedom

These freedoms embody the right to be free from non-consensual medical treatment, such as medical experiments and analysis or forced sterilization, and to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment or penalization.

Health services, product and facilities should be provided to all with no discrimination

Equality is a key principle in human rights and is crucial to the enjoyment of the right to the best possible standards of health. All services, product and facilities should be out there, accessible, acceptable and of excellent quality.

  • Facilities, product and services should be accessible in enough amounts among a State.
  •  They have to be accessible physically for all sections of the population, as well as kids, adolescents, older etc
  • The facilities, product and services ought to respect medical ethics, and be gender-sensitive and culturally acceptable. In other words, they must be medically and culturally acceptable.
  • Finally, they have to be scientifically and medically acceptable and of fine quality. This needs, particularly, trained health professionals, scientifically approved and valid medicine and hospital instrumentation, adequate sanitation and safe drinking water.

Right to Health and Other Human Rights

Human rights are dependent, undividable and reticulate. This means that violating the right to health could typically impair the enjoyment of different human rights, like the rights to education or work, etc. The importance given to the “underlying determinants of health”, that is, the factors and conditions that shield and promote the right to health beyond health services, merchandise and facilities, shows that the right to health depends on, and contributes to, the belief of the various other human rights. These embody the rights to food, to water, to adequate  living standards , to adequate housing, to freedom from discrimination, to privacy etc

Application of Principle of Non-Discrimination

Discrimination means that any distinction, exclusion or restriction created on the premise of assorted grounds that has the impact or purpose of impairing or nullifying the popularity, enjoyment or exercise of human rights and basic freedoms. it’s joined to the social process of specific population groups and is mostly at the root of basic structural inequalities in society. This, in turn, might make these  groups more vulnerable to poverty  and unhealthiness.

The impact of discrimination is combined when an individual suffers double or multiple discrimination,  on the  basis of sex and race or national origin or age. For instance, in several places many places many indigenous women are  more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence than the general population and receive fewer health and reproductive services and information.

Non-discrimination and equality are elementary human rights principles and important parts of right to health. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[2] and  the Convention on the Rights of the Child [3] determine the subsequent non-exhaustive grounds of discrimination: race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or alternative opinion, national or social origin, property, disability, birth or alternative standing. in keeping with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “other standing” could embody health status (e.g., HIV/AIDS) or sexual orientation.

States have associate degree obligation to ban and eliminate discrimination on all grounds and guarantee equality to any or all in relevance access to health care and therefore the underlying determinants of health. The International Convention on the Elimination of All sorts of racism [4] conjointly stresses that States should compel and eliminate racism and guarantee the  right of everyone to public health and treatment.

Non-discrimination and equality further imply that States should acknowledge and supply for the variations and specific wants of people that usually face specific health challenges, like higher mortality rates or vulnerability to specific diseases. the requirement to confirm non-discrimination needs specific health standards to be applied to specific population groups .Positive measures of protection are significantly necessary when certain groups of persons have ceaselessly been discriminated against in the practice of States parties or by non-public actors.

Along constant lines, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has made it clear that there’s no justification for the dearth of protection of vulnerable members of society from health-related discrimination, be it in law or in fact. So even in hardships, vulnerable members of society should be protected, for instance through the adoption of comparatively low price targeted programmes.

Challenges to Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Many refugees and asylum seekers lack access to health promotion because of financial protection to afford such services.  Problems and  challenges faced by them during each part of the migration cycle typically affect  the health of refugees and asylum seekers . Access to adequate health care is commonly diminished or absent within the country of origin, on the journey to safety, additionally as within the hosting country of destination. The country of origin might have a less developed health service or discontinuous health systems thanks to the due to certain crises, which can contribute to health conditions practised even before or since the onset of the travel.
Refugees and migrants face many barriers accessing health services, that differs from country to country: culminating as linguistic and cultural barriers, high costs, discrimination, political hurdles, social isolation, inability to affiliate with native health finance schemes, adverse living conditions (such as camps), lack of information concerning health entitlements and lack of recognition of skilled qualifications. Other factors conducive to worse health outcomes of refugees and asylum seekers are the accrued risk of communicable diseases (the interruption of access to immunisation and continuity of care.

Communicable Diseases and Vaccines

Refugees and asylum seekers are exposed to recognized risk factors for communicable diseases. Most of them come back from countries endemic for poverty-related diseases ; the crises in their country of origin has usually result in the disruption of national health-care services , leading to fall of vaccination coverage ; and that they are often exposed to deficiency disease and infectious agents in insanitary, promiscuous and overcrowded contexts throughout their displacement . With the exception of this, refugees and asylum seekers face many challenges in receiving a full vaccination schedule through follow-up vaccinations.

Mental Health

Armed conflict and natural disasters cause vital challenges for the long psychological state and psychosocial well-being of affected populations. Regions that have long been affected by war and conflict, suffer from mass loss of lives, displacement, and cross-generational changes to ancient,familial and social group structures. The results may be devastating to the emotional well-being of affected populations with notable will increase within the prevalence of common mental disorders like anxiety and depression.

Women and Children

Fifty percent of the world’s refugees are women and girls , however they’re massively underrepresented as a target population in humanitarian action initiatives . Women and girls are at an inflated risk of gender primarily based violence, however it’s been seen that they’re  usually excluded from life-saving services and decision-making processes due to discriminatory social norms and have a restricted quality to urge facilitation due to physical insecurity . It has been evident that many of them are subjected to Sexual Gender-based violence as well as rape, force, sexual violence, abuse, exploitation and early and compelled wedding . A minimum of one in five refugee women have been forcelly subjected to sexual violence . Although refugee men and boys are also victims of Sexual Gender-based violence , these incidents are usually under-reported. Apart from all  refugee women face poorer physiological state and birth outcomes and face higher complications rates from unsafe abortion .

Application of Right to Health on Refugees

The 1951  Refugee Convention and also the 1967 Protocol with reference to the Status of Refugees and Article 14 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights[5] establishes a legal framework around the right to seek asylum . Both the  treaties are acceded by most member states and central to the international protection of refugees; they outline the term “refugee”, establish the principle of “non-refoulement” as refugees’ right to be protected against forced return to a territory wherever their lives or freedom would be vulnerable, and sets state’s responsibilities towards the expatriate population .

In order to retort to regional specificities and wishes, states in several elements of the planet have developed and enforced their own regional laws and standards additionally to the international expatriate protection regime from the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol . Some of them are listed below:

  • The 1969 OAU Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa
  • The 1984 Cartagena Declaration for Latin America
  • The 2001 Bangkok Principles on the status and treatment of refugee

Other than these International Refugee Law there are several International Human Rights Law which provide protections to asylum-seekers and refugees they are:

  • The Convention against Torture
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women


All 193 Member States of the United Nations agreed for providing protection to people who are forced to escape their countries as well as support the countries that have offered shelter to them by adopting the New York   Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in September  2016 , .

This declaration enclosed two key steps towards a  providing refugees protection and responding to the wants of host countries and communities:

  • The adaptation of the excellent refugee response framework , which will set out a wide selection of measures to be taken by the international community in response to all  aspects of displacements in  large-scale refugee scenario.
  • To improve international responses by operating towards the adoption of a ‘Global Compact on Refugees’ in 2018, of which the primary proposal was  released on 20   July 2018.

The GCR aims to strengthen the international response to movements of refugees and has four key objectives:

  • To ease the pressures on countries that host giant numbers of refugees; 
  • To reinforce refugee self-reliance;
  • To expand access to third-country solutions ; and
  • To support conditions in countries of origin to alter refugees to return to safety and dignity.

[1] 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention)

[2]  Article 2(2)

[3] Article 2(1)

[4] Article 5

[5] Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

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