As part of our efforts to monitor access to the COVID-19 vaccines for undocumented migrants in Europe, we’re speaking with national-level advocates about the situation in their countries. This interview was conducted in June 2021 with Diana Dimova from Mission Wings Foundation to discuss the situation in Bulgaria. It is not meant to offer an exhaustive picture of the legal and practical context in Bulgaria. Please get in touch at email@example.com if you have information you’d like to share, and follow our Twitter page @PICUM_post to get more recent updates.
What does the Bulgarian vaccination strategy say about undocumented migrants?
The Bulgarian vaccination strategy doesn’t mention undocumented migrants. It sets out priority groups in terms of age, medical conditions and work. Thanks to advocacy from civil society organisations, the strategy also includes refugees and asylum-seekers held in Bulgaria’s six reception centres.
Would undocumented migrants still be able to access the vaccines somehow?
Well, the health care system in Bulgaria doesn’t generally recognise people without residence or identity documents. This is also true for the COVID-19 vaccines.
The mainstream booking system is not accessible to them, because they would need to provide a social security number. There may be a possibility to still get the vaccine in so-called “green corridors”, that is vaccination centres (usually part of hospitals or other health establishments) where anyone – not according to the priority groups – could go and get the vaccine. You’d still need some documentation but it’s unclear what type, so it may be possible for someone with a foreign passport to get vaccinated.
Are there any plans to make the vaccines more accessible to undocumented migrants?
Not at this stage. We’ve been trying to discuss access to the vaccines for this group with the Directorate of Migration, in vain. We’re now planning to address letters to various bodies, including the national Ombudsman, to get some clarification on who is responsible to provide the documentation that would allow undocumented migrants to get the vaccine.
Would there be any risks of immigration consequences if an undocumented person tries to access the vaccines?
We can’t exclude it, but it seems quite unlikely given the poor communication between health care services and police authorities.
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