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Undocumented migrants plead to be included in SA's vaccine programme

Published Aug 3, 2021

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WITH South Africa’s vaccination campaign gathering pace, the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) an NGO representing migrants in South Africa, is appealing to government to include undocumented migrants into the country’s vaccination programme.

ADF spokesperson Amir Sheikh said access to health has always been an issue in the migrant community and many still fear that they may face rejection if they present themselves with or without documentation.

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Sheikh said: “A lot of education and awareness is needed in migrant communities because there’s a lot of fear and misconception in the migrant community surrounding the vaccine.”

“We are willing to work with the government so that we can remove these issues and ensure a smooth vaccination process and no one will be left behind in our communities.The fear of being caught and sent back is there but it's these myths and misconceptions that are stopping our members from getting the jab.”

Although President Cyril Ramaphosa has in the past said every person in the country would be vaccinated, regardless of their citizenship status, there is yet to be a clear plan on when undocumented migrants will be vaccinated.

So far South Africa’s Electronic Vaccination Data System the country’s registration portal only accepts documented foreigners.

The International Rescue Committee reported in May that 60% of countries receiving their vaccines through WHO’s Covax facility had excluded refugees or internally displaced populations from their national plans.

Meanwhile, The African Centre for Migration & Society at Wits University has called on acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi to do the right thing to ensure the Covid-19 vaccination programme is inclusive.

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“Where there’s a safe vaccine and where there are people at risk, we must vaccinate and this includes upholding the president’s promise to “make the vaccine available to all adults living in South Africa, regardless of their citizenship or residence status,”

“We will be putting in place measures to deal with the challenge of undocumented migrants so that, as with all other people, we can properly record and track their vaccination history. It is in the best interests of all that as many of us receive the vaccine as possible,” said the centre.

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