Healthcare under threat for undocumented migrants in Italy
28 January 2009
Rome - On February 3, the Italian Senate is expected to vote on a bill that would abolish existing principles protecting the confidentiality of undocumented migrants seeking healthcare. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), together with three Italian medical and legal associations*, has requested the Senate vote against the bill. If approved, the bill would allow health personnel to report undocumented migrants to the authorities, with serious repercussions for migrant healthcare access. "The risk of being reported when seeking health assistance could generate fear among undocumented migrants and dissuade them from seeking healthcare" explained Antonio Virgilio, MSF head of mission in Italy. "This would not only violate the principle of universal access to health care, an internationally recognised human right enshrined in the Italian Constitution: If these individuals are reluctant to seek health care in the early stages of illness, this could result in worsening health conditions for them and the wider public; an overburdening of emergency health services; and increased medical care costs." Currently, Italian law prohibits health personnel from handing over data on undocumented migrants to the authorities, unless there is evidence that a patient has been involved in a accident or a crime, for example if a patient victim of a car accident arrives at the hospital, health personnel are obliged to call the authorities, regardless of the patient's legal status in the country (undocumented migrant, documented migrant or Italian citizen). MSF has also appealed to Italian medical personnel and civil society to demand the Senate to vote against the Bill. A sit-in protest is being organised in front of the Italian Parliament on February 2, on the eve of the vote. * Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), together with the Association of Legal Studies on Immigration/ Associazione Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione (ASGI), the Italian Society for Migration Medicine/ Società Italiana di Medicina delle Migrazioni (SIMM), and the Italian Monitoring body on Global Health/ Osservatorio Italiano sulla Salute Globale (OISG), has requested the Senate to vote against the bill.