While the Hungarian politicians, similarly to other populist forces in Europe, falsely claim that migrants brings disease, they ignore the evidence about what really works in stopping disease.
In an interview to a pro-government newspaper, Bence Rétvári, the Secretary of State for Public Administration of the Hungarian government, declared that “mass migration does not only pose risk in regard to terrorism, public security, the preservation of our culture or overburdening social care, but also for the whole public health system.” He backed this claim with two arguments. His first argument was that migration brings “huge extra expenditure” to the public health care system. His second argument was that migrants “endanger” Europe by bringing disease and infections. Both arguments are often used by populist politicians because they seem to be compelling to people who don’t know much about the subject. The only problem with these arguments is that they are not only unsubstantiated by epidemiological research, but are deemed to be wrong and dangerous beliefs by researchers.
A recent example is a scientific commission comprised of leading health experts, convened by the world’s most prestigious public health journal, The Lancet. The UCL-Lancet Commission published its report about the public health impact of migration in December last year. “We come to the conclusion that there is no evidence migrants are contributing to any harmful effects on the health of the countries. If anything, they are adding a lot of value,” said a member of this Commission to the press. According to the report, it is primarily the young and healthy people who undertake a risky journey to start a new life in another country and they have lower mortality and morbidity rates than the host societies in Europe. That means net benefits for the public health system in the ageing Europe. Most of the health damage migrants suffer from can be linked to stigma and discrimination; politicians should focus on breaking down these barriers instead of scaremongering.