Refugees, Budapest station, Hungary. Credit: Rebecca Harms
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikimedia Commons
AS I write this I have a sense of déjà vu.
Public health professionals as far back as the 6th ECTMIH conference , which I attended, recognised that very little was being done in Europe to address mass migration (at that time from Sub-Saharan Africa). Travel medicine specialists were refocusing their research onto migration and asking why this was not being reflected in travel medicine text books and journals.
“Does anyone ever ask if migrants suffer from diarrhoea?” asked Manuel Corachan [CRESIB, Spain], one of the plenary lecturers at the conference.
At that time, Italy (conference host) was bearing the brunt of illegal migration. The conference debated the needs of illegal migrants to Italy, the importance to public health in the host country of giving them access to health services and of having an awareness of disease prevalence & cultural attitudes in the migrant’s home country. In 2011, the organisers of ECTMIH , the Federation of European Societies for Tropical Medicine and International Health (FESTMIH) devoted the entire conference to “global change, migration & health”.
But this foresight was not just ethically driven, it was in expectation of mass migration into Europe due to climate change.
What we are now seeing, less than 6 years later, headlining our daily news and social media is a trial run for what is to come. What was previously perceived as a problem arising out of climate change has hit the EU earlier than might have been anticipated because of people fleeing conflict and dictatorship.