WMA Council Resolution on Refugees and Migrants

Adopted by the 203rd WMA Council Session, Buenos Aires, April 2016


Currently, a very large number of people are seeking refuge and/or asylum; some are fleeing war zones or other conflicts, others are fleeing from desperate poverty, violence, and other injustices and abuses with potentially very harmful effects to mental and physical health.

The global community has been ill prepared for handling the refugee crisis, including addressing the health needs of those seeking refuge.

The WMA recognizes that mass migration will continue unless people are content to stay in their birth countries because they see opportunities to live their lives in relative peace and security and to offer themselves and their families the ability to live lives with opportunities for fulfilment of various sorts, including economic improvement.  The global community has a responsibility to seek to improve the lot of all populations, including those in countries currently with the poorest economies and other key factors.  Sustainable development will give all populations improved security, and economic options.

The WMA recognizes that warfare and other armed conflict, including continuous civil strife, unrest and violence, will inevitably lead to people movement.  The worse the conflict the higher the percentage of people who will want to leave the conflict zone.  There is a responsibility for the global community, especially its political leaders, to seek to support peace making and conflict resolution. 

The WMA recognizes and condemns the phenomenon of forced migration, which is inhumane and must be stopped.  Such cases should be considered for referral to the International Criminal Court. 


The WMA reiterates the WMA Statement on Medical Care for Refugees originally adopted in Ottawa, Canada in 1998 which states: 

  • Physicians have a duty to provide appropriate medical care regardless of the civil or political status of the patient, and governments should not deny patients the right to receive such care, nor should they interfere with physicians' obligation to administer treatment on the basis of clinical need alone
  • Physicians cannot be compelled to participate in any punitive or judicial action involving refugees, including asylum seekers, refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, or Internally Displaced Persons or to administer any non-medically justified diagnostic measure or treatment, such as sedatives to facilitate easy deportation from the country or relocation.
  • Physicians must be allowed adequate time and sufficient resources to assess the physical and psychological condition of refugees who are seeking asylum.
  • National Medical Associations and physicians should actively support and promote the right of all people to receive medical care on the basis of clinical need alone and speak out against legislation and practices that are in opposition to this fundamental right.

WMA urges governments and local authorities to ensure access to adequate healthcare as well as safe and adequate living conditions for all regardless of their legal status.