Intended for healthcare professionals


Rethinking the right to work for refugee Syrian healthcare professionals: a call for innovation in global governance

BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 27 June 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;357:j2710
  1. Vural Özdemir, senior adviser on governance innovation12,
  2. Ilona Kickbusch, director3,
  3. Yavuz Coşkun, professor of paediatrics4
  1. 1Innovation in Global Governance for Science, Technology and Health, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2School of Biotechnology, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham (Amrita University), Kerala, India
  3. 3Global Health Centre, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland
  4. 4Faculty of Medicine, Gaziantep University, Gaziantep, Turkey
  1. Correspondence to: V Özdemir vural.ozdemir{at}

It’s time to consider facilitating Syrian refugee healthcare professionals to care for refugee Syrians residing in host countries say Vural Özdemir and colleagues

Since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, millions have fled their homes.1 The migration and refugee flows have been of an immense scale and speed not seen since the second world war. Syria is now the largest source of displaced people and refugees, overtaking Afghanistan. Though much debate has been focused on healthcare in Syria in the time of war, little attention has been given to how best to provide for Syrian refugees’ health in host countries. We make a call for innovation in global governance for health to meet the needs of refugees in host countries, and discuss how one project in Turkey has looked to Syrian refugee doctors and healthcare professionals to cope with demands.

Refugee flows and health

Movement of people has occurred throughout history for various reasons, including economic prospects, education, fleeing from wars, social conflict, discrimination, natural and anthropogenic disasters, and more recently, climate change.123 However, the number of people living in a country other than where they were born, international migrants, swelled to 244 million or 3.3% of the world's population in 2015, an increase of 71 million since 2000.2 This figure includes nearly 20 million refugees. The 1951 Refugee Convention defines refugees as people who are outside the country of their nationality because of “a well founded fear of being persecuted.”4

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), on 1 June 2017 over five million Syrians were living in the neighbouring countries of Turkey (2 992 567), Lebanon (1 011 366), Jordan (660 315), Iraq (241 406), and Egypt (122 228) as well as 30 000 in north Africa.1 In the European Union, the response to the Syrian refugee crisis has been mixed, …

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