Lancet Editorial: Safeguarding the health and livelihoods of migrants

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The Lancet
Feb 08, 2020 Volume 395Number 10222p389-466, e19-e27
Safeguarding the health and livelihoods of migrants
The Lancet
On Jan 9, 2020, the National Assembly of El Salvador passed an important new law to protect the health and safeguard the rights of internally displaced people in the country. Since 2006, more than 70,000 people in El Salvador have been displaced internally by organised crime and violence. Drafted with input from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and following the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, this legislation lays out a broad set of rights and standards for internally displaced migrants, including access to humanitarian assistance, protection of families, an adequate standard of living, and mechanisms to maintain claims on property that individuals might have been forced to abandon. Honduras is considering similar legislation.

Migration is a global reality. But when irregular or forced, migration and displacement can be dangerous. Although the journey is safe for most migrants, up to 71 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced because of conflict, climate change, or economic necessity. Nearly 800 migrants died in the Americas in 2019, most trying to cross the border between Mexico and the USA. Laws like the one in El Salvador will provide stability and relieve internal pressures that force displaced families to attempt potentially fraught transnational journeys that might expose them to traffickers, natural disasters, and anti-migrant policies. Implementation and enforcement of the law will be crucial to safeguard migrants’ rights to mobility and health.

On Feb 5, the Lancet Migration was launched. This new global collaboration between The Lancet, researchers, implementers, and others in the field aims to advance the health of migrants, building on the recommendations and ambitions of the UCL–Lancet Commission on Migration and Health. Lancet Migration will focus on multidisciplinary research, dissemination, and advocacy to improve the health and wellbeing of migrants around the world. Laws like the one passed in El Salvador are important steps in recognising that migration should not strip people of their rights, and the need to ensure the health of everyone, displaced or not.