Migration Health Assessments & Travel Health Assistance

Migration health assessments are among the most well-established migration management services offered by IOM. At the request of receiving country governments, IOM provides an evaluation of the physical and mental health status of migrants prior to their departure for the purpose of resettlement, international employment, enrolment in specific migrant assistance programmes, or for obtaining a temporary or permanent visa.

Reflecting national differences in immigration and public policies and practices, there is a diverse range of health assessment requirements among receiving countries. These requirements may be specific to certain diseases of public health concern such as tuberculosis, as is the case with the United Kingdom Tuberculosis Detection Programme; requirements may also be more general in nature, or include additional interventions, such as vaccinations. But despite differences in health assessment requirements among countries, one thing remains constant: the need to ensure that the migration process does not endanger the health of either the migrant or host communities.

Migration health assessments have many benefits, including the early detection and treatment of conditions of individual and public health concern, safer travel and the prevention of negative health events during travel or on arrival at host communities. Additionally, they serve to protect the health of both migrants and host communities and reduce the expected demand for domestic health and social services. Health assessment programmes also allow refugee resettlement agencies to adequately prepare for the arrival of refugees by providing them with important medical information in advance. Migration health assessments are coherent with the IOM goal of “healthy migrants in healthy communities” and, as such, positively impact on migrants’ capacity to integrate fully into receiving societies.

The Migration Health Assessment and Travel Assistance Programmes (HAPs) represent the largest activity of IOM’s Migration Health Division (MHD) in terms of migrants served, staff concerned and operational costs. From 2001-2010, the number of individual health assessments provided by IOM grew considerably, amounting to over 1.5 million health assessments over the course of the decade. By 2015, IOM health assessments reached a total of nearly 3 million across more than 80 countries, with approximately 350,000 exams in 2015 alone.

Migration health assessments involve a review of the migrant’s medical history, a physical examination, additional investigations, such as imaging studies, laboratory tests and specialist referrals, if required, documentation of findings and confidential transfer of relevant information to appropriate immigration or public health authorities. Related services include preventive and/or curative treatment or referral for treatment, counselling, health education, public health interventions, including, but not limited, to surveillance, outbreak response, vaccinations, and travel assistance.

Travel assistance serves to address individual health and safety and to manage conditions of public health concern as individuals move across geographical, health system and epidemiological boundaries. Within health assessments programmes, pre-embarkation checks and pre-departure medical screenings are performed in order to assess a migrant’s fitness to travel and provide medical clearance. These measures also ensure that migrants are referred to appropriate medical services once they arrive at their destination countries. Migrants who need medical assistance and care during travel are escorted by health professionals to avoid complications during transit. Pre-departure treatment, vaccinations and other public health interventions are also tailored to meet the needs of migrants and immigration authorities.