Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Portugal and Spain. Challenges for public health policies in a comparative perspective
15th Annual ESPAnet Conference: ?New Horizons of European Social Policy: Risks, Opportunities and Challenges
Portugal and Spain share some geopolitical and sociocultural similarities that enable a comparative approach. One is that they were both, traditionally, countries of emigration. However since the late 1990s?until the financial crises of 2008 they became immigration countries, and since then they have a double dynamic of immigration/emigration flows. The financial crises of 2008 and its sociopolitical consequences, as well as the threat of terrorism have lead to a revival of nationalism leading to closure in many European countries, increasing the challenge of migrants? integration in general. Despite the fact that many European countries do agree on their need to receive migrants due to, among others to the fact, demographic decline and its negative impact on the sustainability of the social and welfare systems, it is possible to observe many incoherencies with regards to integration and migration policies. Immigrants are often more vulnerable and at risk to be exposed to poverty and suffer from criminalization processes that impact their lives.Even the integration of these groups from so-called ?underdeveloped? or ?emerging countries? is nowadays a major challenge for the EU countries. Studies have pinpointed the existence of several administrative, symbolic and practical obstacles to exercise the right to health, including the entitlement and the accessibility to public health-care services in several European countries. Based on previous researches, we pretend to observe these aspects comparing Portugal and Spain, where policies to promote equity in health were in place but have been withdrawn partially or totally, under the influence of austerity policies and/or political opposition to migration and multiculturalism. Our analytical approach is centered around three different populations of migrants: legal migrants, irregular migrants, and refugees and asylum seekers, and the public health services environment. Our first hypothesis is that part of the process of becoming ill among these groups consists of complex results from their individuals? ways of life and work, within the contexts of social vulnerability in the reception urban areas of these two countries. Another hypothesis is that the processes of attending to the suffering and distress resulting from this are interdependent on the situation described previously. They are also influenced by the immigration situation and its administrative consequences, which as the result that they experience varying capacity to exercise human rights and access to public health care services. Consequently, social inequalities result in health inequalities and should not be established just as indicators that relate solely to certain processes of becoming ill and/or in specific pathological conditions. Rather, they should fundamentally be determined in relation to the access to public health care services, diagnoses and treatments that immigrants are subjected to.
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