International Journal of Public Health

, Volume 61, Issue 5, pp 523–524 | Cite as

Commentary: From the primacy of safe passage for refugees to a global social policy

  • Oliver Razum
  • Alexandra Kaasch
  • Kayvan BozorgmehrEmail author

In a commentary on Europe’s refugee crisis published in this issue of the International Journal of Public Health, James D. Smith rightly criticizes the international community for failing to adequately deal with humanitarian needs of people in transit (Smith 2016). We agree. But we wish to extend Smith’s argument: providing better access to appropriate health care during the process of migration will not suffice. The European Union (EU) radically fails with regard to three other fundamental obligations: Firstly, ensuring safe passage for refugees; secondly, implementing liberal laws regulating immigration to EU countries; and thirdly, putting their global health strategies into practice along with developing broader global social policies.

The “right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948, implies that people seeking shelter are traveling under often excruciating conditions (Razum and...


European Union Social Protection European Union Country Safe Passage Refugee Crisis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


This study did not receive any external funding.

Ethics approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


  1. Bozorgmehr K, Szecsenyi J, Stock C, Razum O (2016) Europe’s response to the refugee crisis: why relocation quotas will fail to achieve ‘fairness’ from a health perspective. Eur J Public Health 26:5–6. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckv246 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Brashares JS, Arcese P, Sam MK, Coppolillo PB, Sinclair AR, Balmford A (2004) Bushmeat hunting, wildlife declines, and fish supply in West Africa. Science 306:1180–1183. doi: 10.1126/science.1102425 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Deacon B (2007) Global social policy and governance. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Dekker R, Engbersen G (2012) How social media transform migrant networks and facilitate migration. International Migration Institute (IMI), OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Frenk J, Gomez-Dantes O, Moon S (2014) From sovereignty to solidarity: a renewed concept of global health for an era of complex interdependence. Lancet 383:94–97. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62561-1 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Gilbert G (2015) Why Europe does not have a refugee crisis. Int J Refugee Law 27:531–535. doi: 10.1093/ijrl/eev049 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Pettersson T, Wallensteen P (2015) Armed conflicts, 1946–2014. J Peace Res 52:536–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Piachaud J (2008) Globalization, conflict and mental health. Glob Soc Policy 8:315–334. doi: 10.1177/1468018108095631 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Razum O, Bozorgmehr K (2015) Disgrace at EU’s external borders. Int J Public Health 60:515–516. doi: 10.1007/s00038-015-0689-4 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Smith JD (2016) Thinking beyond borders: reconceptualising migration to better meet the needs of people in transit. Int J Public Health. doi: 10.1007/s00038-016-0814-z

Copyright information

© Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Razum
    • 1
  • Alexandra Kaasch
    • 2
  • Kayvan Bozorgmehr
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and International Public Health, School of Public HealthUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of SociologyUniversity of BielefeldBielefeldGermany
  3. 3.Department of General Practice and Health Services ResearchUniversity Hospital HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

Personalised recommendations