Inclusive policies

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In July 2021, the European Union implemented a Covid-19 vaccination certificate mandate for intra-EU travel. Subsequently, a growing number of European countries adopted Covid-19 certificates as a pass giving access to a multitude of spaces and services.

These measures are justified as a tool to boost vaccination, limit the spread of infection and ultimately lift restrictions on travel, movement and gatherings. But they also create a real risk of deepening mistrust and exclusion of undocumented people, while failing to address the underlying reasons for the disparate vaccination. Equally worrying, the strengthening of policing that inevitably accompanies the increasing use of certificates is likely to push undocumented migrants further to the margins.

For people living in Europe without regular status, enrolling in Covid-19 vaccines is itself a challenge. To buy a vaccine, authorities usually require a social security number or national ID, which undocumented people likely do not have. Some countries, like Hungary, require proof of personal address, which can be difficult to obtain for undocumented migrants.

Even when they can in principle be vaccinated, for example because reservation systems are more flexible – as is the case in Portugal or France – in many countries, such as Poland, the authorities do not guarantee that medical staff would not inform police of the status of undocumented people when they receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Another critical hurdle is the lack of clarity in most EU member states as to whether undocumented people are eligible for the vaccine in the first place, and if so, how they can get it.

The nonprofit Lighthouse Reports newsroom found that at least nine countries in Europe have vague policies regarding immunization rights for undocumented migrants.

For people without papers, even getting vaccinated does not guarantee that they will get a Covid-19 digital certificate. A barrier may be limited access to digital technology, as some undocumented people may not have devices with an internet connection or be able to navigate online systems for recording immunizations, especially where no effort has been made to translate them.

The health databases themselves in some cases restrict the ability of undocumented people to obtain digital certificates. In Italy, the code issued to undocumented migrants to obtain health care is not always recognized by the Ministry of Health as valid for obtaining the country’s “Green Pass”, which is now necessary to access the health care system. Most public spaces and services, including workplaces and public transport (the application of the ‘Green Pass’ in public transport is done by random checks by the police). The inability to obtain a pass therefore has enormous consequences for almost every aspect of a person’s life.

Concerns over data protection and immigration controls also deter undocumented people from registering for the certificate. In the Czech Republic, for example, it is still not clear whether the data submitted when applying for a certificate would be passed on to the immigration authorities. Even when clear safeguards are in place, data security breaches – as in Germany recently – can fuel existing fears and deter people from obtaining the certificate.

Extract: “COVID-19 policies must include undocumented people” Courtesy of: Aljazeera.com

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