One of the classic rants that xenophobic anti-immigration types like to toss around is the “they come here for the public benefits that we, good legal citizens pay for” argument. Immigrants are constantly portrayed as parasitic, sucking at the teat of public welfare. But time and again, if you take a look at the statistics, it’s just not so. A recent study by the NGO Médecins du Monde (MDM) shows that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the EU don’t receive public benefits, even ones they are legally entitled to.

From LeMonde (pardon the translation):

“This report demonstrates that a part of the population living in the European Union does not have access to either the most basic preventative care or essential care, even in cases of persons living in conditions particularly damaging to health” explains MDM. In theory, 78% of persons asked can receive health coverage, though the situation is very uneven depending on the to the country receiving those without papers, Greece being cited as the worst student in the class. But in France, for example, where 90% of persons have a right to it, only 7% use it. The cause is poor information: a third simply do not know that they have that right, and 56% don’t know where to go for it. In the end, 24% are afraid of being turned in.

In their report, MDM clear up a myth: illegal immigrants do not come to Europe to be taken care of. Quite to the contrary, one must be in very good health to survive the trials of clandestine immigration. For a start, these are the living conditions of illegals in Europe- 40% are in a precarious housing situation, 11% live on the streets and all are without fixed resources – which makes for a population at risk from a health care point of view.

The article then goes on to point point out that this should be a concern for everyone since these are the populations most at risk in times of epidemics, which would then grow to affect everyone. In fact, the statistics show more than half of those immigrants who are AIDs carriers don’t know that they are entitled to free testing, which delays detection and treatment.

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