The Regional Expert Group on Migration and Health, together with TB Europe Coalition (TBEC), is launching the #HealthWithoutBorders campaign ahead of World TB Day 2021, celebrated on 24 March. For three weeks, both organizations will publish the personal stories of people affected by tuberculosis who are migrants in either Eastern or in Western Europe, and who faced challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of TB because of their residency status, low awareness of the health system in their host country, or due to stigma and discrimination, among other barriers. We will feature six personal stories of women and men who migrated to a country in Europe, for work or because they were forced to flee their home country for other reasons. For the first time in their lives, they will publicly share their experiences and feelings about their journey of being a migrant affected by TB
Paul Sommerfeld, Chairman of the Board of TB Europe Coalition, welcomes the launch of the campaign: “We are very glad to present this campaign on the issue of TB and migration in the European region. I have certainly felt for a long time that this is an issue that needs considerably more attention in terms of what is happening to migrants as far as tuberculosis as concerned. It was for me, coming from a British background, a significant learning to realise that in our region – East Europe and Central Asia – when we talk about migration, we are talking largely about temporary labour migrants rather than people coming for permanent settlement as is the experience in countries of Western Europe. As labor migrants people face major issues in terms of access to diagnosis and care for health issues, including tuberculosis. Problems of access arise in both the host countries and in the home countries of migrants. They also face problems of human rights, highlighted by the fear of deportation if they present themselves openly and publicly for care”.
Ksenia Shchenina, Board Member of TB Europe Coalition and TB People, emphasized the importance of having a procedure for people who are migrants to access TB care: “Latent tuberculosis is widespread in former Soviet countries – TB is present in the immune system, it controls it until something stressful happens. Migration status, language barriers, irregular work, poor quality food, and discrimination quickly undermine health. In addition, several countries have laws that deport foreign nationals who were diagnosed with TB. Some people, fearing the loss of their jobs and leaving their families without support, simply avoid diagnosis and treatment. Or they find ways to be treated unofficially – and not always appropriately. It is important to have a clear set of actions for people migrating to work in another country in case they experience health issues so that the state does not ruin them”.