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Line of people waiting for care from two medical providers in a tentIntroduction to Migration and Health

Versión en Español


This course will not be offered in 2024.



This transdisciplinary course will address the health issues, and their determinants, of migrants, including refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people. A particular focus will be placed on migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Latin America arriving at the borders of North America and Europe. We will approach this from a global health lens addressing issues of culture, justice, equity, human rights, legal and gender frameworks and participatory and decolonizing approaches. We will note the impact of policy, social and health care services (including specialized clinics), and nonprofessional management dealing with issues such as integration, mental health, women’s health, children’s health and access to food security, employment, education and appropriate interpretation services.


Photo Neil AryaNeil Arya (BASc MD CCFP FCFP DLitt)
Dr. Arya remains an Assistant Clinical Professor in Family Medicine at McMaster University (part-time) and continues as the Founder & Director of the Centre for Family Medicine Refugee Health Clinic in collaboration with the Kitchener Waterloo Reception Centre. The Refugee Health Clinic has provided case-specific specialized care since 2008. Dr. Arya was lead physician developing the Psychiatric Outreach Project, providing mental health services for those with precarious housing in St. John’s Kitchen in Kitchener--tasks which led to him receiving the 2009 College of Family Physicians of Canada "Geeta Gupta Award for Equity and Diversity" and in 2013 he received an Ontario College of Family Physicians Award of Excellence. He later participated in development of national Homeless Health Guidelines. Dr. Arya was a Fellow at the International Migration Research Centre (IMRC), Wilfrid Laurier University and is on the conference committee North American Refugee Health Conference (NARHC). He co-edited the book, Underserved: Health Determinants of Indigenous, Inner-City and Migrant Populations in Canada in 2018Detailed biography of Dr. Arya

headshot Cheryl MartensCheryl Martens, PhD
Director, Institute for Advanced Studies of Inequalities; Associate Professor, Sociology and Coordinator of Social Ciences, Universidad San Francisco de Quito; Founding member, Pegasus Institute Latin American Network




We’ll begin with an explanation of the history and geography of migration flows including the types, reasons, classes of migrants, rural urban movement, needs on frontiers and political determinants of migration. Topical issues including recent flows from Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, the Horn of Africa and Central Africa. We will address health issues of migrants, primarily after reaching the Global North, but also of internally displaced populations and issues in refugee camps. The importance of cultural considerations in mental, emotional and spiritual health will be explored. Social determinants of health and other issues of resettlement and the importance of reception centres will be discussed. Migrant worker issues will be addressed and specific challenges related to asylum seekers and irregular migrants versus ‘legal’ or ‘legitimate’ refugees. Migrant health professionals themselves will explain issues, including from their own lived experience. Broader issues including neocolonialism and advocacy for social justice will be addressed.

The English version may be slightly more oriented towards clinicians and the Spanish version more directed towards social scientists. The Spanish version will also include more on Indigenous peoples as a vulnerable/underserved population. Both sessions will cover public health and determinants of health.


  • Appreciate the history of migration flows from South to North
  • Understand migration push factors and legal barriers placed on such migration
  • Recognize health care issues (physical, mental and emotional) related to migrants including the importance of culture on health and care
  • Describe public health and settlement challenges, as well as social determinants of health approaches to deal with such challenges
  • Understand the political economy of migrant worker force and the lack of protection of rights of such workers
  • Appreciate the importance of migrant voices in policy making with regard to migrants


  • Clinicians
  • Social work and public health professionals and students
  • Migration studies professionals
  • Policymakers


Maximum 100 participants.

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