Sweden’s Dilemma: The Right to Health for Irregular Migrations. An examination of human rights law and factors affecting policy
Sweden is said to be one of the most restrictive countries in all of Europe when it comes to the right to health for irregular migrants. The UN and civil society have called on the Swedish Government to revise its domestic legislation in order to meet what it deems the States’ human rights obligation. This paper seeks to examine whether the Swedish Government is in fact violating international human rights law with its position to provide only ‘immediate’ health care services to irregular migrants. Furthermore, the paper conducts a comparative analysis with five other European nations to garner insight into factors that may influence State health care policy for irregular migrants. The paper argues that a lack of a concrete definition of health itself and the degree of the right to health, together with the conflict of the sovereign nation state rights and the challenges to the practical enjoyment of rights for irregular migrants, leaves room for interpretation of international human rights documents. The paper therefore concludes that the responsibility set under European level legislation, requiring emergency health services be provided to irregular migrants, offers the most tangible description of responsibility. As such, Sweden appears to be within its obligations. A number of factors, including the number and type of irregular migrants, immigration history and current policy, the welfare state system, as well as the economic impact and public opinion, play a role in determining health care policies. While the results point to relationships between the factors and health care policy for irregular migrants, the complex and dynamic nature of irregular migration makes it difficult to conclusively conclude the degree of the impact.