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Migrants: Guidance on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine

GENEVA (8 March 2021) – All migrants should be included in COVID-19 vaccination programmes regardless of their nationality and migration status, experts from the UN, African, European and Inter-American human rights systems urge in a Guidance Note published today. The experts stress that vaccine registration should not be used to collect information about an individual’s migration status and shared with immigration enforcement authorities.

The Guidance Note, jointly issued by the UN Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and regional human rights experts, offers six key proposals regarding vaccine distribution. It calls on States to take into account the vulnerabilities, risks and needs of those migrants who are most exposed and vulnerable to coronavirus when drawing up their prioritization lists for vaccination.

“In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rights to health and non-discrimination are fundamental and indispensable. To overcome the pandemic and leave no one behind, these rights must be guaranteed to all migrants regardless of nationality and migration status. All migrants must have access to the vaccine on an equal basis with nationals,” the experts said.

“A number of reports indicate that migrants may be more vulnerable to poor health because of their often low socio-economic status, the process of migration and their vulnerability as non-nationals,” they added.

Regarding the organisation of vaccination campaigns, the experts called for there to be clear firewalls between immigration enforcement and the provision of COVID-19 vaccines. They cautioned that public information campaigns should make it clear that migrants in irregular situations will not be penalized or targeted for immigration enforcement when seeking access to COVID-19 vaccination. “Nobody should be afraid to seek the care they need,” the experts underscored.

They urged States to develop coordinated strategies and mechanisms of cooperation and assistance to guarantee universal and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and to take into special consideration countries that face economic obstacles in securing vaccines for their populations, including migrants and their families.

The Guidance Note is now available online.

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OHCHR: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) is the UN entity to promote and protect the full range of human rights and freedoms set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The experts: The UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW) is the body of 14 independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families by its State parties. It held its first session in March 2004;

Mr. Felipe González Morales (Chile) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants in June 2017 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three years. As a Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. He is Professor of International Law at the Diego Portales University, in Santiago, Chile, where he is also the Director of a Master's programme in International Human Rights Law;

Ms. Sahli Fadel Maya, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Mr. Drahoslav Stefanek, Ambassador, Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe;

Ms. Julissa Mantilla Falcón, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

For more information about the Guidance Note, please contact:
Idrissa Kane, Secretary of the CMW Committee +41 (0) 22 917 92 73 / ikane@ohchr.org and Nikolaus Schultz +41 (0) 22 917 92 28 / nschultz@ohchr.org or Yiyao Zhang +41 (0) 22 917 85 94 / yzhang@ohchr.org

For media requests in Geneva, please contact:
Vivian Kwok at +41 (0) 22 917 9362 /
vkwok@ohchr.org or UN Human Rights Office Media Section at +41 (0) 22 928 9855 / media@ohchr.org

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