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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2018

A systematic review on the use of healthcare services by undocumented migrants in Europe

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2018
Marjolein Winters, Bernd Rechel, Lea de Jong, Milena Pavlova
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12913-018-2838-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Undocumented migrants face particular challenges in accessing healthcare services in many European countries. The aim of this study was to systematically review the academic literature on the utilization of healthcare services by undocumented migrants in Europe.


The databases Embase, Medline, Global Health and Cinahl Plus were searched systematically to identify quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods studies published in 2007–2017.


A total of 908 articles were retrieved. Deletion of duplicates left 531. After screening titles, abstracts and full texts according to pre-defined inclusion and exclusion criteria, 29 articles were included in the review. Overall, quantitative studies showed an underutilization of different types of healthcare services by undocumented migrants. Qualitative studies reported that, even when care was received, it was often inadequate or insufficient, and that many undocumented migrants were unfamiliar with their entitlements and faced barriers in utilizing healthcare services.


Although it is difficult to generalize findings from the included studies due to methodological differences, they provide further evidence that undocumented migrants in Europe face particular problems in utilizing healthcare services.
Additional file 1: Search strategy for Embase, Medline, Global Health and Cinahl Plus. (PDF 219 kb)
Additional file 2: PRISMA checklist. (DOC 58 kb)
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