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Call for Abstracts

Our world is witnessing an unprecedented increase in human mobility: more than one billion people — one of every seven — are categorized as in-country displaced or international migrants. The dramatic and uncontrollable increase in human mobility has affected all countries as either a country of origin, a transit country, or a country of destination.

Migration is a determinant of health. Displacement and legal status expose people to vulnerability, deprivation, discrimination, violence, abuse, and extortion, and limit their access to healthcare, thus affecting both immediate and lifelong health outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing conditions of vulnerability and social exclusion of marginalized populations, including migrants, especially unauthorized migrants, those in detention centers, refugees, and asylum seekers. Thus, they experience a disproportionately higher pandemic burden.

The Annual Conference on the Health of Migrants provides a platform for constructive policy dialogue among relevant stakeholders, including immigrants and organizations representing migrants, law and policymakers, government leaders, health care professionals, the faith community, health system administrators, academicians, researchers, community-based service providers, and international and multilateral organizations.

The 4th annual conference in March 2021 is currently accepting abstracts and artwork submissions in five tracks linking migration, health, and an important topic area. The overarching theme is the COVID-19 pandemic and creating more conditions for social exclusion. Learn more about each track by clicking on the respective tabs above.

  • Social, economic and environmental determinants
  • Health care access, quality, and efficiency
  • Migration of health personnel (Brain drain)
  • Migrant detention

The current call for abstracts and artwork accepts submissions on a wide range of determinants and long-term processes that create conditions of vulnerability and social exclusions. However, we also recognize the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and particularly solicit submissions that deal with these new circumstances.

Abstracts for posters and oral presentations should cover the learning objective(s) and describe the topic in no more than 400 words. The abstract and the subsequent poster may describe research findings, stories from the field, or the theoretical framework for suggested actions/policies. The selection of abstracts for poster or oral presentation will depend on the quality of the abstract and the space available within the specific track.

The art abstract should cover, in no more than 400 words, the broad idea of the artwork, how it relates to the topic area, and the space required to display the work. Artwork can include but is not limited to drawings, films, photographs, and sculptures. If the art is already completed, please include a link to view it online or embed it into the PDF. Artwork need not be complete to be considered.

Submit proposals by February 26, 2021, using the. The abstract submission deadline has passed.

Posters and artwork will be judged during the conference. The top three from each category will be recognized during the conference closing session.

Track 1: Social, economic and environmental determinants


People migrate largely due to wars, conflicts, political instability, armed violence, poverty, income inequality, and climate change. These crises, including wars, are not bad for everybody. In 2019, global military expenditure reached $1,917 billion. The United States continues to lead global military spending with a share of 38%, followed by China (14%), Russia (3.4%), and Saudi Arabia (3.2%).1 The arms sales by the top 20 military contractors, “profiting the most from the war” has reached US$235.3 billion.2 Global spending on militarization is largely financed from public resources and goes to private corporations.

Pervasive violence is a major cause of emigration, especially in areas like the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA), a region with the highest violence rates in the world due to the increasing control of organized criminal armed groups.3, 4 Extortion is another form of the violence in Central America. La Prensa, a Honduran daily newspaper, estimates that Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatamalans together pay more than US$650 million a year in extortion fees.5

Unfair trade agreements also contribute to increased flows of migration due to impoverishment. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), for example, enables the U.S. to export massively subsidized corn to Mexico, which led to a severe drop in corn production in Mexico. As a result, millions of small farmers have left their farms, a good portion of whom migrated to the north in search of other job opportunities.6

Income inequality is often associated with unequal access to education, health care, political participation, and political power.7 Fajnzylber, et al. (2000) found a strong positive association between income inequality, the Gini index, and the incidence of crimes, both robbery and homicide types.8 However, this correlation does not explain the increasing rate of organized crime in El Salvador despite the sharp reduction in poverty and the expanded income inequality. Poverty and income inequality may both contribute to the initiation of violent groups/gangs. Once formed, these gangs gain significant power which makes the situation difficult to change even if the underlying causes of their existence are changed.

The World Bank predicts that Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia will generate 143 million climate migrants by the year 2050.9 Climate change increases the number of international migrants and internally displaced persons mostly through the increased frequency of extreme weather events. In early 2019, 146,000 persons were internally displayed in Mozambique because of Tropical Cyclone Idai.10 Literature has also associated an increase in aggression with higher temperatures.11


  1. Identify and discuss the co-influence of underlying political, economic, social, and environmental drivers of migration
  2. Describe the forms and pathways for discrimination, social exclusion, and violence against migrants
  3. Identify the research agenda to close knowledge gaps in addressing the determinants of migration
  4. Identify best practices to reduce discrimination against migrants
  5. Identify and discuss policy proposals to address the structural determinants of migration

Areas of focus

  • Climate change
  • Violence, conflicts and political instability
  • Poverty and inequity

Track 2: Health care access, quality, and efficiency


Migration, health, and management are rarely studied together. Management is generally defined as the process of using human, financial, and technical resources to achieve predetermined objectives.12 Global health is "an area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide."13 Migration management is "the establishment of a regime that is capable of ensuring that the movement of people becomes more orderly, predictable and productive, and thus more manageable."14 Our review of extant scholarship suggests both a challenge and an opportunity to integrate these disparate but related bodies of literature.

The movement of population requires a globally synergistic response from health and other human services sectors. This proportion of migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, and expatriates within the host population has been trending upwards in the past two decades. The 2019 report from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) estimated 272 million international migrants.15 That same year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 79.5 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide. This complex phenomenon necessitates a critical, multi-disciplinary discourse.16

Health is a core component of migration management. The World Health Organization (WHO), in response to its member states and in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and non-State actors, is considering options to support "the development of recommendations and tools for the governance, management and delivery of health care services that address epidemiological factors, cultural and linguistic barriers, and legal, administrative and financial impediments to access, with the involvement of refugee and migrant health workers."17 Developments on the policy and practice fronts provide a fertile ground for empirical discovery and theoretical exploration which, in turn, leads to a critical and intertwined perspective of management, health, and migration management.

We invite abstracts that address either the demand side or the supply side of migration health management. On the demand side, we are interested in how individuals and families manage diseases. Migrants and refugees experience a delay, failure, or interruption in their health care. Specific reasons include a lack of legal status (i.e., nationality), stigma, discrimination, and language, cultural, and financial barriers to seeking care. On the supply side, we are interested in loci of care for migrants and refugees in biomedical settings, as well as non-traditional settings such as detention centers, prisons, and work sites. Migrants and refugees perform dangerous, difficult, and demeaning (3D) work to sustain their livelihoods. There may be variation in quality and/or inefficiency of preventive interventions or treatment sought from non-traditional settings, but these may represent the only care outlets accessible to migrants and refugees.


The objective of this track is to develop the concept of 'migration health management'. Thus, we welcome scholarly work that:

  • Occupies one or spans multiple levels of analysis (micro, meso, macro)
  • Adopts an inductive, deductive, or abductive approach
  • Uses qualitative methods, quantitative methods, or mixed-methods
  • Is both driven by and seeks to extend social science theory
  • Is situated in an empirical context, culture, and setting
  • Holds public policy, labor market, and/or business implications

Areas of focus

  • Access to preventive and curative health services
  • Social determinants of migrant population health
  • Other puzzles that involve examination on multiple levels of analysis (individual, household, organization, sub-national, national, supranational)
  • Organizational policies and practices that reproduce inequality either within the migrant population or between the migrant and general population
  • Cultural brokers who mediate between two or more cultures while providing services
  • Approaches to health care and preventive interventions that are customized to maximize existing resources and meet the needs of migrants
  • The socialization of health within immigrant enclaves and other transnational communities

We also welcome abstracts that cut across not only focus areas, but across the tracks (arts, social determinants of health, brain drain, detention) of this conference.

Track 3: Migration of health personnel (Brain drain)


Brain drain is the concept of highly skilled or educated people moving from one country to another in search of opportunity. Some countries see more people leaving than others.1 The migration of specialists, in particular health workers, represents a considerable loss for the origin countries and results in worse training and working environments compared to the host countries.2 In response to this workforce imbalances, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a Code of Practice on the recruitment of health personnel.18 This Code seeks to improve the management of health worker migration flows, especially from origin countries with already fragile health systems.

Until the travel bans set up in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, international mobility had been getting easier. There is growing competition for talent and human capital retention between countries.19 Namely, every country must identify ways to make itself nationally and internationally attractive to skilled professionals in many fields. Higher education, workforce management, economic development, and commerce must come together to address this issue. This track seeks high-quality studies that describe the characteristics, pathways, and consequences of the migration of highly trained professionals. This track is also interested in the assessment of global, national, and organizational policies relevant to such migrations.


  1. Deepen the understanding of the brain drain phenomenon and its drivers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. Discuss the barriers to the implementation of the WHO's Code of Practice on the international recruitment of healthcare personnel and the limitations of the code
  3. Identify policy proposals that seek to attract and retain healthcare personnel and compensate the countries of origin

Areas of Focus

  1. Global shortage of healthcare personnel: magnitude, intensity, determinants, and solutions
  2. COVID-19's disruption of employment and education in the health sector: who is on the frontlines?20
  3. Contextual and institutional factors to implement (or not) the WHO's Code of Practice
  4. Multilateral or bilateral migration agreements (e.g., South-South Migration [SSM]) and their social and economic consequences
  5. Social reintegration assistance for future returning migrants

Track 4: Migrant detention


UNHCR (2014) reports that immigrant detention occurs across the globe, including asylum seekers, stateless persons, and refugees.21 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) defines migrant detention as "the restriction on freedom of movement through confinement that is ordered by an administrative or judicial authority."22 The movement restriction takes different shapes based on the country and the type of migrant. It varies from simply monitoring of movement to imprisonment.

We highlight this global phenomenon for several reasons. The unprecedented increase over the last decade in the number of migrants has been met with an increased rate of detention of migrants and asylum seekers. UNHCR (2014) reported that this practice had been used as a means for governments to control or dissuade certain types of migration into countries.21 There is no accurate global figure for detained migrants. However, the Global Detention Project reported that, during the last decade, over 100 countries across the globe had used no less than 2,000 facilities to limit the movement of immigrants.23, 24 In the U.S., the number of detained immigrants reached 510,854 in 2019 versus 396,448 in 2018, a 29% increase.25 The group Freedom for Immigrants, which works with people who stay in detention centers for more than a month, found that 7% stay less than 6 months, 12% stay from 6 months to 1 year, 28% stay 1-2 years, 48% stay 2-4 years and 5% stay for more than 4 years.23 In most countries, these detained migrants have few if any legal rights. Furthermore, the detention process has serious mental, physical, and emotional consequences both in the short-term and in the long-term.26

In recent years, the world has witnessed an increase in the detention of children as well, which has led to particularly egregious human rights violations related to family separation. In fact, the migration and detention of children is correlated with significant psychosocial issues after release and later in resettlement.27 The detention of children is forbidden by international law and not acceptable under any circumstances.28

In addition to these tragic human costs to detention, the latest literature on migrant detention notes additional "civic and democratic costs" of migrant detention. "Studies have documented the various ways in which exclusionary and discriminatory practices within the criminal justice system inculcate anti-democratic values of governmental distrust and civic disengagement on a growing underclass of Americans."26 Despite this, in 2019, the U S. Department of Homeland Security proposed $22.5 billion for migration control and enforcement, an increase of 22% from F.Y. 2017. These increased resources have a profoundly negative impact on already vulnerable migrant populations, which in turn perpetuates a vicious cycle of migration tendencies.29

We seek abstracts that help expand the general understanding of how migration and detainment interact in many parts of the world. We look forward to scholarly works that further inform the discourse and present viable methods toward an alternative migration process that facilitates a human rights approach to screening, processing, and integration of migrants. We also invite further discussion on the long-term consequences of dedicating increased law enforcement to administrative confinement of migrants. Overall, we aim for this track to emphasize the various underlying causes of many of these events, theories, and analysis of possible consequences of continuing in this direction, and demonstrable alternatives that can be realistically implemented.


We are looking forward to reviewing abstracts for scholarly work and artwork that:

  • Discuss the social, political, and environmental factors that influence migrant detention
  • Engage in policy examination of existing methods and processes surrounding migrant detention
  • Explore the legal procedures required for immigration detention

Areas of focus

We hope to review submissions that address but are not limited to any of the following focus areas:

  • Human rights violations in the detention process
  • Detention-related health consequences
  • Economic implications of detention
  • Conditions in detainment centers and refugee camps
  • The impact of COVID-19 on migrants in detention centers
  • Child detention and family separation
  • Humanitarian alternatives to detention


  1. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Global military expenditure sees largest annual increase in a decade—says SIPRI—reaching $1917 billion in 2019. Volume 2020. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2020.
  2. Stebbins S, Comen E. Military spending: 20 companies profiting the most from war. Volume 2020: USA Today, 2019.
  3. WOLA. Five Facts about Migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle. Volume 2016: WOLA, 2016.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Women on the Run: First Hand Accounts of Refugee Fleeing. 2015.
  5. Honduras Mas Noticias. Imperios de la Extorsion estan en Honduras y El Salvador. Honduras Mas Noticias, 2015.
  6. Kraul C. Growing Troubles in Mexico: Globalization has soured a legacy of corn farming, practiced by nearly 25% of populace. Volume 2020. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Times, 2000.
  7. Economist T. Inequality in Latin America: A Stubborn Curse. The Economist, 2003.
  8. Fajnzylber P, Lederman D, Loayza N. Inequality and Violent Crime. Journal of Law and Economics 2000;XLV (April 2002):1-40.
  9. Rigaud K, Kanta, de Sherbinin A, et al. Preparing for Internal Climate Migration. Washington DC: The World Bank, 2018.
  10. United Nations. UNHCR Factsheet: Cyclone Idai. New York: UNHCR, 2019.
  11. Anderson CA. Temperature and aggression: ubiquitous effects of heat on occurrence of human violence. Psychol Bull 1989;106:74-96.
  12. Bradley EH, Taylor LA, Cuellar CJ. Management Matters: A Leverage Point for Health Systems Strengthening in Global Health. Int J Health Policy Manag 2015;4:411-5.
  13. Koplan JP, Bond TC, Merson MH, et al. Towards a common definition of global health. Lancet 2009;373:1993-5.
  14. Ghosh B. Managing Migration: towards the Missing Regime? Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2007.
  15. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) Population Division. International Migration Report 2019. New York: United Nations, 2019.
  16. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Figures at a Glance. Volume 2020, 2020.
  17. World Health Organization (WHO). Draft Global Action Plan ‘Promoting the health of refugees and migrants’ (2019-2023). Geneva: WHO, 2019.
  18. World Health Organization (WHO). WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO), 2020.
  19. Cervantes M, Guellec D. The brain drain: old myths, new realities. 2020.
  20. McLaughlin D. Brain drain and poverty hamper eastern Europe’s COVED-19 response, 2020.
  21. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Beyond Detention. A Global Strategy to support governments to end the detention of asylum-seekers and refugees, 2014.
  23. Freedom for Immigrants. Resources: Detention by the numbers. Volume 2020, 2020.
  24. Global Detention Project. Detention Centers. Volume 2020: Global Detention Project, 2020.
  25. CATO Institute. CATO at Liberty: 8 People Died in Immigration Detention in 2019, 193 Since 2004. Volume 2020, 2020.
  26. Ryo E. Understanding Immigration Detention: Causes, Conditions, and Consequences. Annual Reviews of Law and Social Sciences 2019;15:79-115.
  27. Mace AO, Mulheron S, Jones C, et al. Educational, developmental and psychological outcomes of resettled refugee children in Western Australia: a review of School of Special Educational Needs: Medical and Mental Health input. J Paediatr Child Health 2014;50:985-92.
  28. Library of Congress. Law: Children's Rights: International Laws. Volume 2020. Library of Congress: Library of Congress, 2020.
  29. Johnson RL, Woodhouse M. Securing the Return: How Enhanced US Border Enforcement Fuels Cycles of Debt Migration. Antipode. ANTIPODE 2018;50:976-96.