IOM Recognizes Efforts in Europe, Middle East to Protect All Migrants’ Access to Public Health

Geneva —The International Organization for Migration (IOM) recognizes the decision of governments across Europe and elsewhere to aid migrants impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, Portugal this week opted to grant temporary residency rights, including access to health care and social security, to all immigrants and asylum seekers whose application is still being processed during this moment of heightened concern over the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Amid public health emergency, IOM has monitored migrant communities that often are among the most vulnerable anywhere—because of their households’ precarious living and working conditions, or because of a lack of proper documentation that may limit access to healthcare or the fear of accessing those services due to their irregular status.  

Therefore, Portugal’s decision to grant access to basic services provides a much-needed lifeline for many who would otherwise be left unprotected and exposed to greater health risks. This is an example of an inclusive response that demonstrates solidarity with those most in need and recognizes the human dignity of all while seeking to protect all from COVID-19. IOM believes in every emergency, no one should be left behind. 

IOM notes similar efforts that bend towards generosity and integration are being exhibited throughout the world.  

The French government extended all residence permits by three months starting on March 16,  thereby guaranteeing access to health care and social security for those who might otherwise be vulnerable due to expirations during the pandemic.  

In Greece, although asylum services starting March 13 were temporarily suspended—including registration of asylum requests, asylum interviews and appeals in asylum cases—the asylum service stated applicants' cards and residence permits due to expire during the suspension would remain valid. 

In the UK, the visas of those whose leave expired on January 24, 2020 or after and are in the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to COVID-19, will be extended until 31 May 2020. Further, all National Health Services for coronavirus are accessible and free for everyone regardless of their immigration status in the UK. This includes coronavirus testing and treatment, even if the result is negative. 

The Slovak Republic has extended residency permissions for non-citizens as an exceptional crisis measure. Meanwhile, this week the government of Qatar announced that migrant workers in quarantine or undergoing treatment will receive full salaries. 

IOM is convinced that now is the time, as the world faces together this deadly virus, to demonstrate social cohesion, diversity and prevention of xenophobia in building a better future, with dignity for all. 

For More information please contact:  Safa Msehli at IOM Geneva, Tel: +41 79 403 5526. Email: 

Ryan Schroeder at IOM Brussels Email: tel + 32 492 25 02 34