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For centuries, seeking a better life has presented major obstacles for those who have the need and the courage to relocate their lives. Recent media attention has focused on immigrant families escaping famine, war or other disastrous circumstances in their homelands. The popular media has written much less about migrant workers who travel abroad to earn a living not possible in their home settings. Commonly, family members who stay home are completely dependent on funds sent back while, in the host country, their migrant relatives are often employed in dirty, dangerous and demanding jobs and required to return to their country of origin after limited years. They cannot settle in the host country and cannot bring their family members with them. Regardless, all immigrants face immediate and long-term struggles as they attempt to interact with a new society. At minimum there are linguistic, cultural and economic challenges to face. Host countries can address these challenges in the way they welcome and assist immigrants and migrant workers to adjust. In the case of formal labour agreements between countries, as between Nepal and Qatar, they have an obligation to make the experience as safe and just as possible.
Public health professionals in host countries can help address the critical health needs of immigrants, but for migrant workers there is a particular need for the focused attention of the occupational health community. One case where that community must be more engaged was documented by Amnesty International: ‘In the prime of their lives’ Qatar’s failure to investigate, remedy and prevent migrant workers’ deaths. 1 There is good evidence that the plight of migrant workers is global in nature,2–4 but this …
Contributors DHW drafted the editorial and DN, SS, and JG provided independent input and content in the revision of the final document.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
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