migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

Vaccination: it’s about health, not immigration

Vaccination: it’s about health, not immigration

MV

 Migrant Voice - Vaccination: it’s about health, not immigration

We welcome the government’s announcement that everyone in the UK is entitled to receive Covid-19 vaccination regardless of their immigration status. However, in order for everyone to come forward, including an estimated million undocumented migrants, they need to trust that the government will not use any information collected to take immigration enforcement action against undocumented migrants. The government must introduce a system that is completely independent, with the sole aim of protecting public health and saving all lives. People living in the UK without documents need to be assured that they will not be at risk of deportation by coming forward for the vaccine.

The government must now launch an information campaign that reaches every community, including undocumented migrants. We need a clear message that everyone has the right to a Covid vaccine regardless of their immigration status. Posters with the relevant information should be displayed wherever the vaccine is being administered, including doctors’ surgeries. Online instructions about accessing the jab should be published for migrants and staff, so that there is absolute clarity. Significantly, at the time of writing, the government’s announcement of universal entitlement has yet to be published on the Home Office’s own website. This needs to be rectified immediately in order to alleviate migrants’ fears.

Several GP surgeries continue to require proof of ID, address, or immigration status from anyone wishing to register with a GP. This is against government guidelines and prevents people from registering with a GP, and therefore accessing the vaccine. The government must urgently address this loophole.

We need to see a further government commitment that the policy – no immigration checks on anyone who requires Covid-19 testing and treatment, and on anyone receiving a vaccine – will remain in place in the future. It must be crystal clear that immigration checks will not be performed on people receiving a vaccine now, and their data will not be shared with any immigration agency in the future: not in one, five or 50 years.

Years of hostile environment have led to mistrust between the government and many migrant communities. Mistrust cannot be undone with a simple single announcement, and more actions are needed to build up trust. A recent Privacy International report shows that the Home Office is moving towards a more centralised immigration surveillance system, which will be accessible by various agencies. We must be sure that any information shared with the NHS when receiving treatment or a Cocvid-19 vaccine will not be shared with any of these other databases. This is an issue of public health, not of immigration.

This is absolutely the right time for the government regularisation of the status of all undocumented migrants in the UK. Such a move would see the dismantling of the toxic hostile environment, eliminate exploitative living and working situations, and enable people to have rights and participate as full members of society. A new chapter.

Photo credit: Arne Müseler / arne-mueseler.com / CC-BY-SA-3.0 

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