A focus on the right to health in the context of migration

Whilst the media focus on asylum seekers and refugees has come to dominate the discussion on migration policy in Australia, two new articles, authored by Centre Project Director Jed Horner and colleagues, focus the spotlight on the effects of the migration health criteria for some migrants, their families and communities.

The articles, published in the journals New Political Science and Critical Public Health, challenge the assumptions that underpin restrictive migrant entry criteria, under the guise of ‘health concerns’, in relation to HIV and tuberculosis. They explore the enduring connections between spatial concerns, which reflect deeper political anxieties around ‘porous borders’ and the need to excise ‘undesirable’ people from the body of the nation-state, and the Migration Act (1958) and its attendant regulations.

This work recently informed a submission by Jed to the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia on the draft national communicable disease control strategy. The submission advocated the need for a new national strategy to be underpinned by the interconnected right(s) to health, and non-discrimination, amongst other rights, as well as the need for explicit engagement with specific affected communities, something that used to be the hallmark of Australia’s approach to public health concerns. 

“Because gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV in countries like Australia, and migrants comprise the majority of cases of Tuberculosis (TB) in this country, engaging with these affected communities, including in the context of immigration law, where being diagnosed with either HIV or TB can be highly consequential depending on your visa status, is critical,” says Jed.

These issues will be explored in greater detail at a public forum, to be held on the 9th December, and hosted by the Australian Human Rights Centre. Speakers will focus on how well Australia is faring in relation to engaging with specific affected communities in relation to HIV, tuberculosis and drug use. Further information will be forthcoming shortly. 


* Photo credit Dorothea Lange - Portrait of Florence Thompson with several of her children in a photograph known as "Migrant Mother". The Library of Congress caption reads: "Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California." In the 1930s, the FSA employed several photographers to document the effects of the Great Depression on the population of America. Many of the photographs can also be seen as propaganda images to support the U.S. government's policy distributing support to the worst affected, poorer areas of the country. Lange's image of a supposed migrant pea picker, Florence Owens Thompson, and her family has become an icon of resilience in the face of adversity.