- An international human rights body has urged South African health care professionals to improve migrants access to health care.
In a report released by Human Rights Watch, it accused SA authorities of endangering the health of the country's large foreign population by routinely denying health care and treatment.
The 89-page report, named "No Healing Here: Violence, Discrimination and Barriers to Health for Migrants in South Africa," has described how harassment, lack of documentation, and the credible fear of deportation prevent many newcomers from seeking medical treatment even though South African law and policy state that asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants have a right to care.
A fellow in the health and human rights division of Human Rights Watch, Rebecca Shaeffer, said migrants in transit are abused, attacked upon arrival, and then denied care when they are injured or ill.
"The South African government should be ensuring that these people get the care they need, and are entitled to, under the country's constitution," she said.
According to the report, the South African Department of Health has affirmed the rights of asylum seekers and refugees to obtain care, but the Organisation found that health care workers repeatedly violated that provision and discriminated against patients on the basis of their nationality or lack of proper documentation.
It further says permanent disabilities resulting from xenophobic violence against migrants are being compounded by xenophobic discrimination in health care settings.
Furthermore, in urban centers throughout the country, the report said refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants are often placed in unsafe temporary shelters, resulting in increased risk of infectious disease transmission, interruption of treatment for chronic illness, and often inadequate nutrition.
It further states that the delayed, interrupted, or denied treatment of migrant health threatens to further strain South Africa's already stretched health system. “When untreated, illness becomes more severe or resistant to first-line drugs, preventable disability develops, care becomes more costly, and communicable diseases threaten citizens and non-citizens alike,” the report said.
Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 100 migrants, health care workers, and advocates to produce the report.
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