Mass Migration Risks Major Public Health Crisis

Germany provides a case study of the health consequences of uncontrolled migration.

Pope Francis said on Monday that migrants’ dignity and right to protection are of higher priority than national security concerns. He said that we should “always prioritize personal safety over national security.” The pope fails to realize that both personal safety and national security are threatened by the flood of uncontrolled mass migration. Some of the migrants, including would-be asylum seekers, willfully import violent Islamic jihadism into their host countries, killing innocent civilians. Others from countries with primitive sanitation facilities and substandard medical care are carrying deadly diseases.

As the Islamic terrorist attack in Barcelona demonstrated yet again, jihadists who have migrated from Muslim majority countries are continuing to wreak havoc in their adopted Western host countries. However, the silent killers that unchecked migration may spread across borders are infectious diseases that were thought to be largely eradicated in the West.  

According to a report prepared by the Federation of Immigration Reform, “Communicable diseases do not stop at international borders. They could be one of the most dangerous – yet rarely considered – consequence of inadequate immigration controls.” The report added that “researchers have concluded that the international movement of people is a significant factor in disease outbreaks.” Germany is a case in point. 

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that 2015 was the year of the largest migration of people in human history. Germany admitted over a million self-proclaimed refugees and other migrants in 2015. Many of them came from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa. 

An article appearing in the Journal of Health Monitoring, published by Germany’s public health institute, known as the Robert Koch Institute, noted the severe strain that this mass migration into Germany has placed on Germany’s health system:

“The wars and devastation of recent years have driven many people to flee their homes. Great numbers of asylum seekers and refugees have sought protection in Europe. In 2015 and 2016 alone, over one million people applied for asylum in Germany. This has posed a great challenge for Germany’s healthcare provision facilities.” 

The health journal article noted the insufficient representative data on the health and healthcare of asylum seekers and refugees in Germany or their impact amongst the general public. However, the article acknowledged that the prevalence of “particular communicable diseases is higher among asylum seekers than among the resident population.” The number of reported cases of Hepatitis B, for example, increased nearly fourfold between 2014 and 2016. Many of the infected individuals were unvaccinated migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

According to the Robert Koch Institute’s Infectious Disease Epidemiology Annual Report for 2016, a proportion of the increase in the number of cases of such diseases as Hepatitis B, HIV, and tuberculosis “in 2015/16 can be attributed to the migratory movements as compared with previous years.”

Moreover, diseases rarely seen before in Germany have shown up since the 2015 wave of mass migration. Louse-borne relapsing fever is an example of such a disease. According to a Munich-based doctor quoted by Gladstone Institute, "It has a mortality rate of up to 40% if it is not recognized and not treated with antibiotics.” Migrants wearing clothing containing the disease-carrying body lice have literally transported them to Germany, where residents coming into close contact with someone with the lice or with infected clothing can catch the disease.

Making matters even worse in Germany is the refusal by some Muslim migrants to accept medical treatment from medical professionals of the opposite sex and the migrants' hostility, including outright violence, aimed at medical personnel. They prefer to hold onto the unhealthy practices they grew up with, alongside other like-minded migrants living in their host country but within culturally separate enclaves. They appear to have no problem if the communicable diseases they brought with them spread beyond their self-contained communities to the general population. 

study of persons of Turkish origin residing in Germany found that the majority of those in what the study called the separated group, who retained their heritage culture and did not adopt the culture of their host society, migrated to Germany when they were adults. They tended to identify themselves as religious. And they also were the group most “associated with poorer physical and mental health.”

The German experience with unchecked mass migration should be instructive for the United States. Without very careful vetting of asylum-seekers and other migrants, the United States could soon face its own public health crisis. Rising tuberculosis cases, while still not at an alarming level, may foretell what is to come if we are not careful. Among 9,287 tuberculosis cases reported in 2016, “U.S.-born persons accounted for 2,935 (31.6%) cases, and 6,307 (67.9%) cases occurred among foreign-born persons,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. Less than 1 percent of the cases occurred among persons whose national origin was not known.

Measles has also increased in the U.S. in recent years, as evidenced amongst people of Somalian origin living in Minnesota where less and less children are being vaccinated. 

Incredibly, refugees are not required to have any vaccinations before arrival in the United States. Moreover, while the Immigration and Nationality Act mandates that all immigrants and refugees undergo a medical screening examination to identify inadmissible health conditions, this examination is performed by authorized physicians in the applicants’ countries of origin. That is of little comfort if the medical examination occurs in those countries with meager health service resources and poorly trained medical personnel. 

“Newly arrived immigrants and refugees may have undiagnosed infectious diseases or untreated chronic health conditions,” the Centers for Disease Control has acknowledged.  Screening new arrivals to the U.S. is also challenging for health professionals who lack familiarity with diseases endemic to a migrant’s country of origin and lack knowledge of the beliefs of new migrant groups. Refugees in particular “generally remain in their own cultural group for some time after arrival,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. This raises the same problem evidenced in the study of persons of Turkish origin residing in Germany but living in separated groups, discussed earlier in this article.

The United States is not prepared for a major outbreak of infectious diseases carried here by refugees and other migrants who have not received comprehensive screening before being admitted into the country. Illegal immigrants add to this unacceptable risk. Even accepting for the sake of argument Pope Francis’s advice to “always prioritize personal safety over national security,” personal safety of the residents of the host countries and of migrants alike is imperiled by serious undetected diseases the migrants may be carrying with them from countries where those diseases were so prevalent and immunization was minimal.