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On the frontiers of public health. Care for refugee sex workers in Paris as a case of internationalization of cities.

Project description

Public health and the migrant sex workers

The recent influx of refugees and migrants to European cities created new situations of poverty and social exclusion. Among the most vulnerable groups are sex workers. As a consequence, new threats for public health emerged. Local authorities were unprepared to handle the problem and political tensions intensified. The EU-funded CosmopolitanCare project will study how the coordination between local societies, humanitarian experts and sex workers affects migrant and refugee prostitutes’ relation with public health. The main purpose of the project is to identify landmarks between cities, migration and public health and to investigate the effect of different ways of intervention on the health of migrant and refugee sex workers.


"The “refugee crisis” is turning cities into controversial arenas of the internationalization of public health. Local governments, unprepared to deal with the situations of poverty and exclusion experienced by refugees and migrants, call for coordination with humanitarian professionals. The research project aims to understand the ways in which the health problems of a growing and extremely marginalized urban population, that of migrant and refugee sex workers, are addressed. Research lies at the intersection of two theoretical debates that are mainly based on ethnographic and historical approaches. A first body of literature is only recently trying to overcome the dominant anti-trafficking discourse where care for sex workers has been confined. A second body of literature sees cities as the most convenient contexts to investigate controversies of global health – especially humanitarian care - in dealing with vulnerable and marginalized populations. Based on the combination of two inquiry methods - ethnography of outreach work and participatory action research – ""CosmopolitanCare"" aims to investigate the ways in which new forms of coordination among sex workers, humanitarian professionals and civil society affect migrant and refugee sex workers’ experiences of public health in the context of moral and political tensions emerging around both the issues of migration and prostitution in Europe. Main objectives are: (a) to generate a frontier perspective on cities, health and migration; (b) to investigate the consequences of different modes of interventions on migrant and refugee sex workers’ health problems; (c) to turn research into an experience of collective evaluation of the accountability of the interventions under observation. The timeliness of the project offers an outstanding opportunity to experiment a new relationship between science and democracy and contribute to European innovation in public health research and urban policy."


Net EU contribution
€ 277 061,76
75270 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 277 061,76