EUROCITIES and its Migration & Integration Working group contributed PICUM’s new report Guaranteeing Access to Health Care for Undocumented Migrants in Europe: What Role Can Local and Regional Authorities Play?. It outlines the crucial role played by local and regional authorities in ensuring the implementation of fundamental rights of undocumented migrants, with the particular example of access to health care. The report is the outcome of a roundtable discussion held by PICUM together with EUROCITIES at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels on 12 December 2012. The roundtable addressed discrepancies between national and local level regulations and practices on access to health care for undocumented migrants. The report provides a set of recommendations to all actors involved which are also included in French, Spanish and Italian.
“Despite denial by EU and member states, undocumented migrants exist. They are people who live in our cities. We, local administrations are compelled to deal with this reality and deliver services for these people when needed, as is the case during situations of social emergency,” highlighted Ramón Sanahuja, Director of Immigration and Interculturality, Barcelona City Council and Chairman of the Migration and Integration Working Group at EUROCITIES.
Although many legal entitlements are defined at national level, the implementation of basic social services such as health care, education and tackling homelessness lies in many countries within the competence of regional and local authorities. This is why their role is crucial to create policies ensuring social cohesion and integration.
Regional governments across Europe have introduced various innovative measures to fill the gaps created by national legal provisions and restrictive policies including the involvement of civil society organisations and practitioners on the frontline.
Dr Sarah Spencer, Open Society Fellow, University of Oxford said: “It’s striking that local and regional authorities are increasingly driving this agenda, filling gaps in services in order to protect fundamental rights but also to deliver on their own agendas – from cohesion and public health targets to ending street homelessness. Yet my study finds they’re constantly thwarted by legal restrictions and government reluctance to acknowledge the challenges they face.”
Fear of detection and data exchanges are a major barrier for irregular migrants to access health care services at local level. Depending on the constitutional set-up, local and regional authorities might be in the position to deliver public services as well as report undocumented migrants. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has developed guidelines for EU member states to enable undocumented migrants to access services such as medical care and education without fearing immigration control.