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UNHCR warns against COVID-19 vaccine gap for stateless people



UNHCR warns against COVID-19 vaccine gap for stateless people

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned on Tuesday that many stateless people around the world could miss the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination due to their lack of proof of citizenship identity.

In its latest report on The Impact of COVID-19 on Stateless Populations, the agency noted that the majority of national immunization plans did not specify their coverage of stateless people.

“There are millions of stateless people in the world, without the nationality of any state.

“This has extremely damaging effects on their basic human rights, and now they can also be excluded from access to life-saving vaccinations,” said Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s international protection officer.

UNHCR has warned that many people without nationality or identity documents would be excluded unless states make special efforts to reach them and address the specific challenges they are likely to face.

The new report provides recommendations and examples of good state practice in this regard, including the acceptance of other forms of proof of a person’s identity.

“In the interest of protecting people’s lives and ensuring public health, national immunization plans must be implemented in the most inclusive way possible.

“As many stateless people already face widespread exclusion and marginalization, barriers to access need to be removed and special attention needs to be paid to their situation,” Triggs said.

Since the start of the pandemic, many stateless people continue to face difficulties in accessing health care and social services.

Many may fear showing up for testing or treatment due to their lack of legal status, which could put them at risk of detention and deportation.

The cost of medical care, including vaccinations, can also be high for stateless persons, as they are generally not covered by national public health plans.

UNHCR, which has a mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless persons, is aware of a global population of at least 4.2 million stateless in some 94 countries.

The United Nations Refugee Agency has said that due to the invisible nature of this issue, the actual figure is considered considerably higher.

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, UNHCR also warns that disruptions to birth registration services created new risks of statelessness.

“A number of countries that have suspended civil registration services due to the pandemic, birth registration, which is essential for establishing citizenship eligibility, has been affected.

“Countries where birth registration services have been partially or fully suspended are now reporting lower birth registration rates as well as significant backlogs.

“Targeted birth registration campaigns for hard-to-reach populations at risk of statelessness have also been suspended in many settings.

“The risks of statelessness are probably the highest for minority groups which constitute the majority of known stateless populations,” he said. (NAA)


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