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Thursday May 26, 2022

Inclusive policies

January 05, 2022

In July 2021, the European Union implemented a Covid-19 vaccination certificate mandate for intra-EU travel. Subsequently, a growing number of countries across Europe have adopted Covid-19 certificates as passes granting access to a host of spaces and services.

These measures are justified as a tool to boost vaccine uptake, limit the spread of infection, and ultimately lift restrictions on travel, movement, and gatherings. But they also create a genuine risk of deepening mistrust and exclusion for undocumented people, while failing to address the underlying reasons for disparate vaccine uptake. Just as worrying, the heightened policing that inevitably comes with the widening use of certificates is likely to push undocumented people further into the margins.

For people living in Europe without regular status, registering for Covid-19 vaccines is itself a challenge. To sign up for a vaccine, authorities typically require a social security number or national identification document, which undocumented people most likely do not have. Some countries, like Hungary, require proof of a home address, which may be difficult to obtain for undocumented migrants.

Even when they can in principle get vaccinated, for instance because booking systems are more flexible – as is the case in Portugal or France – in many countries, like Poland, there are no assurances from the authorities that medical personnel would not inform the police of undocumented people’s status when they get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Another critical barrier is the lack of clarity in most EU member states about whether undocumented people qualify for the vaccine in the first place, and if so, how they can obtain it.

Non-profit newsroom Lighthouse Reports has found that at least nine countries in Europe have vague policies about vaccine entitlements for undocumented people.

For undocumented people, even getting vaccinated does not guarantee they will get a digital Covid-19 certificate. One obstacle can be poor access to digital technology, as some undocumented people may not have devices with an internet connection or be able to navigate the online systems for vaccination registration, particularly where no effort has been made to translate them.

Health databases themselves in some cases restrict undocumented people’s ability to obtain digital certificates. In Italy, the code issued for undocumented migrants to get health care is not always recognised by the health ministry as valid for obtaining the country’s ‘Green Pass’, which is now needed to access most public spaces and services – including workplaces and public transit (enforcement of the ‘Green Pass’ in public transport is done through random checks by the police). The inability to get a pass, therefore, has enormous consequences for nearly every aspect of a person’s life.

Concerns over data protection and immigration checks also deter undocumented people from registering for the certificate. In the Czech Republic, for instance, it is still unclear if data submitted when applying for the certificate would be transmitted to immigration authorities. Even when there are clear safeguards in place, data security breaches – such as in Germany recently – may feed existing fears and dissuade people from getting the certificate.

Excerpted: ‘COVID-19 policies need to be inclusive of undocumented people’ Courtesy: Aljazeera.com

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