If you are not a citizen where you live, for whatever reason, you will likely be low down on the vaccination list.

If you are stateless, have migrated to another country or are a refugee due for security or political reasons, you know how it feels to live in a state without full legal rights. 

During a deadly pandemic, things could get even worse for migrants and refugees living in camps or living rough with little access to adequate medical facilities. 

"It can’t be allowed to be the case that these people are treated as second class citizens when it comes to being vaccinated," says Boris Breyer, the spokesperson for the German NGO SOS Kinderdörfer Weltweit (SOS Child Villages Worldwide).

Breyer warned that it’s not just a human rights issue but also a global health problem. Unvaccinated migrants and refugees pose threats to not only their own health but also others as Covid-19 continues to hit the world with a succession of concerning new variants. 

"We cannot leave them alone with this problem. It is even more important now than ever to realize that the situation of displaced people affects us all. This problem should be tackled together by the international community," noted Breyer.

"It is only when everyone is vaccinated that we will be able to effectively fight the coronavirus pandemic," he added. 

Shabia Mantoo, spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also drew attention to the same problem in a recent interview. 

“It’s in the interest of refugees — this is a lifesaving intervention, having the vaccines, having treatment. But at the same time, it’s in the country’s interest to make sure that there’s no one on their territory that is unprotected and exposed because that will then hamper progress made in combating the virus and stopping the pandemic,” Mantoo said. 

“No one is protected unless everyone is protected,” she added. 

The UNHCR is currently leading a worldwide effort “to ensure that some 80 million forcibly displaced people in more than 100 countries are included in rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, among them 29.6 million refugees."

A member of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) talks with Venezuelans as they queue in line to receive a vaccine after showing their passports or identity cards at the Pacaraima border control, Roraima state, Brazil August 8, 2018.
A member of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) talks with Venezuelans as they queue in line to receive a vaccine after showing their passports or identity cards at the Pacaraima border control, Roraima state, Brazil August 8, 2018. (Nacho Doce / Reuters)

Exceptions

Despite many developed countries having the funds to buy more vaccines and distribute them, Jordan, a Middle Eastern country with a big refugee population, has been one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its own refugee population. 

While less than 40 countries have publicly declared that they will include refugees in their go-ahead vaccination programs, Jordan, a small country, which has more than 700,000 of its own, has been doing a far better job in terms of vaccinating its displaced people than many advanced economies. 

When anyone signs up for a vaccination program in Jordan, he or she will immediately receive a text message which will direct him/her to a nearby clinic to get his/her dose. 

Last month, Turkey also launched a nationwide campaign to vaccinate everyone including the displaced. Some Syrian refugees have already been vaccinated in the process. 

But countries like Colombia, a Latin American country, are heading in the opposite direction.

Colombian President Ivan Duque openly said that the country’s undocumented migrants from Venezuela will not be vaccinated due to their legal status. 

Colombia is home to nearly two million Venezuelan migrants and at least half of them are undocumented, according to the German NGO SOS Kinderdörfer Weltweit. 

“We are concerned that migrants [will] not attend vaccinations for fear of deportation,” said Felipe Vargas, an advocacy officer at Jesuit Refugee Service in Mexico, which indicated that it wants to include migrants and refugees in the country’s vaccination programs. 

Source: TRT World