The Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS (PANCAP), the mechanism that provides a structured and unified approach to the Caribbean’s response to the HIV epidemic, concluded the regional meeting to provide guidance on the implementation of the Regional Framework on Migrant Health and Rights on 11 April 2019 in Port-of-Spain, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

The purpose of the meeting was to facilitate input from regional stakeholders for finalising a guidance document on how to implement the Framework on Migrant Health and Rights within their country context.

The outcomes of the meeting included an agreement on a holistic approach to providing services for migrants including social services through an intersectoral strategy.

Participants emphasised that the health priorities of each territory must guide the implementation of the Migrant Framework at the country level as well as all policies governing access to migrants’ health.

Participants also agreed on the implementation of the Framework on Migrant Health and Rights at the country level in the interest of protecting and safeguarding public health throughout the region.

Participants were exposed to country presentations from Guyana and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which provided details of the situation and response to Venezuelan migrants, as well as experiences from Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, The Bahamas and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).  These experiences illustrated the need for the implementation of the Framework to ensure consistent access to health by migrants.

There was also broad agreement on the need to implement the Framework at the country level from a Human Rights perspective.

Participants called for research into the financial and human resource capacity that is essential to provide holistic health services for migrants. The meeting noted the urgent need for strategic information for decision-making regarding the type of services necessary for migrants.  It was also recommended that countries research the requirements for a minimum package of services for migrants.

Participants also recommended research into sourcing a financial mechanism to mobilise funding for access to all healthcare by migrants.

Building strategic partnerships within the public health system to advance holistic treatment for migrantswas proposed as a necessary step which would provide immediate results for improving access to services by migrants.  Participants also advocated for creating strategic alliances with social services to offer comprehensive care for migrants including sexual and reproductive health services, housing, nutrition, etc.

There were calls for an education, training and sensitisation programme for immigration and border patrol officers to provide guidance on the health, social and psychological requirements of migrants.

Educating the media on the positive impact of migration and highlighting the benefits of integrating migrants into society through public awareness communication campaigns was also recommended. Participants emphasised the need to utilise the regional media to highlight the positive aspects of migrants’ culture to reduce negative perceptions.

Mr Dereck Springer, Director of PANCAP, committed to PANCAP continuing high-level engagements with policymakers, including Ministers of Health and Finance and the CARICOM Secretariat to advocate for access to health by migrants as a public health priority.

The Director highlighted that PANCAP would follow up with countries on the implementation of the Migrant Framework through the PANCAP Justice for All Programme and the PANCAP Policy and Strategy Working Group on Stigma and Discrimination.

The PANCAP Director concluded the meeting with a challenge for participants to advocate at the country-level for an intersectoral holistic approach to providing services for migrants which would incorporate their social and psychological needs.  He noted that the draft guidance on the implementation of the framework proposed by participants is not prescriptive and can be adapted based on the requirements of each territory.

Participants included Port Health Medical Officers, Representatives of Ministries of National Security and Border Affairs, Legal officers and Protection Officers, International Development partners, Permanent Secretaries, Ministries of Health, Chief Medical Officers, National AIDS Programme Managers, Immigration Officers, Civil society partners that work with key populations, Youth Leaders, Private Sector, Academia, and the International Organization for Migration.