BACKGROUND: Migrants and ethnic minorities have suffered a disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the general population from different perspectives. Our aim was to assess specifically their risk of infection in the 53 countries belonging to the World Health Organization European Region, during the first year of the pandemic. METHODS: We conducted a systematic review following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines (PROSPERO CRD42021247326). We searched multiple databases for peer-reviewed literature, published on Medline, Embase, Scisearch, Biosis and Esbiobase in 2020 and preprints from PubMed up to 29/03/2021. We included cross-sectional, case-control, cohort, intervention, case-series, prevalence or ecological studies, reporting the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among migrants, refugees, and ethnic minorities. RESULTS: Among the 1905 records screened, 25 met our inclusion criteria and were included in the final analysis. We found that migrants and ethnic minorities during the first wave of the pandemic were at increased exposure and risk of infection and were disproportionately represented among COVID-19 cases. However, the impact of COVID-19 on minorities does not seem homogeneous, since some ethnic groups seem to be more at risk than others. Risk factors include high-risk occupations, overcrowded accommodations, geographic distribution, social deprivation, barriers to access to information concerning preventive measures (due to the language barrier or to their marginality), together with biological and genetic susceptibilities. CONCLUSIONS: Although mixed methods studies will be required to fully understand the complex interplay between the various biological, social, and cultural factors underlying these findings, the impact of structural determinants of health is evident. Our findings corroborate the need to collect migration and ethnicity-disaggregated data and contribute to advocacy for inclusive policies and programmatic actions tailored to reach migrants and ethnic minorities.

  • Europe
  • All age groups
  • Healthcare workers
  • Risk factor
  • Ethical issues
  • COVID-19