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08 March 2021

Joint Guidance Note on Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines for All Migrants


The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees of the Council of Europe, in conjunction with experts from other European, African and Inter-American human rights systems and the UN, published a guidance note stating that all migrants should be included in COVID-19 vaccination programmes regardless of their nationality and migration status.

The experts stress that vaccination registration should not be used to collect information about an individual’s migration status and shared with immigration enforcement authorities, and calls on states to take into account the vulnerabilities, risks and needs of those migrants most exposed and vulnerable to coronavirus when drawing up their prioritisation lists for vaccination.

The guidance note calls for states to:

  • Provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccination for all migrants and their families on a non-discriminatory basis, regardless of their nationality and migration status;
  • Ensure that vaccine prioritisation within countries takes into account the vulnerabilities, risks and needs of those migrants who are most exposed and vulnerable to the SARS-COV-2;
  • Adopt measures to overcome barriers, establish protocols that facilitate equitable access to vaccination for migrants, including those in irregular situations, and provide targeted outreach and provision of information among migrants in a language they understand and in formats they can access;
  • Enact firewalls between immigration enforcement and the provision of COVID-19 vaccination, in order to prevent fear or risk of reporting, detention, deportation and other penalties as result of migration status. Vaccine registration should not be used to collect nor share information about migration status. Communication messages and public information campaigns should make clear that migrants in irregular situations will not be penalised or targeted for immigration enforcement when seeking access to COVID-19 vaccination;
  • Avoid rhetoric and terminology that stigmatise and reinforce harmful narratives against migrants that may result in the exclusion of migrants and those in irregular situations from the public health response. Ensure public information and rhetoric regarding public health is inclusive of migrants;
  • Develop coordinated strategies and mechanisms of cooperation and assistance to guarantee universal and equitable access to vaccines for COVID-19 globally, and to take into special consideration those countries which due to economic or financial factors are facing obstacles to get vaccines for their populations, including migrants and their families.

Other experts involved in the writing of the note were the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; the Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Read the guidance note in full here.

Joint Guidance Note on Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines for All Migrants
(327.01 KB - PDF)


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