Why do so many undocumented people in the Netherlands fail to exercise their right to medically necessary healthcare?

Count Us In research project - stethoscope

A 2012 estimate by the Dutch branch of Médecins du Monde found that nearly a third of undocumented people do not receive the medically necessary healthcare they are legally entitled to.

Researchers from the International Institute of Social Studies and Erasmus School of Law set out to find out more.

They trained a team of (formerly) undocumented people as researchers and conducted research for two years in the cities of Rotterdam and The Hague. Their research confirmed that many undocumented people fail to access healthcare. While some are unaware of their rights, others face various informal barriers and often choose to self-exclude by not seeking healthcare at all.

This new policy brief shares key findings of their research and offers 6 policy recommendations in the current context of Covid-19.

Policy brief: Towards realizing health rights of undocumented people in the Netherlands: Lessons from participatory research in the time of Covid-19

Please feel free to download the policy brief and share the brief within your networks.

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This research was conducted as part of the project 'Count Us In': Towards Realizing Health Rights Among Undocumented People in Two Dutch Global Cities, funded by the Rotterdam Global Health Initiative.

About the researchers

Dr Helen Hintjens is Assistant Professor in Development and Social Justice at the International Institute of Social Studies
Dr Karin Astrid Siegmann is Senior Lecturer in Labour and Gender Economics at the Internatioal Institute of Social Studies
Professor Richard Staring is Professor in Empirical Criminology at the Erasmus School of Law

Assistant professor
Dr Helen Hintjens
Assistant professor
More information


This brief is predominantly based on Hintjens, H.M, Siegmann, K.A, & Staring, R. (2020). Seeking health below the radar: Undocumented People's access to healthcare in two Dutch cities.  Social Science & Medicine, 248. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.112822

Previous project

Find out more about 'Count Us In': Towards Realizing Health Rights Among Undocumented People in Two Dutch Global Cities

New project

The International Institute of Social Studies recently initiated a new project. Entitled Documenting the Undocumented: Coping Creatively with Covid (DUCCC), the project engages directly with undocumented people’s experiences of the Covid-19 lockdown period.

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