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 August 2021 with Sergio Ferreira from the Association de Soutien aux Travailleurs Immigrés (ASTI) to discuss the situation in Luxembourg. It is not meant to offer an exhaustive picture of the legal and practical context in Luxembourg. 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 Luxembourgish vaccination strategy say about undocumented migrants?
The Luxembourg vaccination strategy doesn’t mention undocumented migrants explicitly, but they are now being reached by the vaccination campaign.
Was this from the beginning?
No, we actually didn’t have a great response from the government at the start of the campaign. We were only able to advance things from mid-July, thanks to internal changes in the Health Ministry.
What was agreed?
The government agreed to open the vaccination centres for undocumented people on selected days in August and in September.
The way it worked was that civil society organisations like ours gathered the contacts of undocumented people who wanted to get vaccinated. We then sent this list to the health ministry, which in turn communicated the contacts to the vaccination centres. This way, the centres could trace the administration of the doses.
How’s that going?
It’s very promising. In the first days, they were able to vaccinate some 2150 people without any particular issue. The health ministry even arranged for the security guards at the vaccination centre to wear civilian clothes, so undocumented people would more readily trust that there wouldn’t be any immigration consequences. At ASTI, we were there the first day to facilitate the process but we realised that our presence wasn’t needed after all.
Are there any other avenues for undocumented people to get vaccinated?
There will be. The government is arranging for the administration of the vaccines through GPs for free, including for undocumented people, from end of September or start of October. We’re still discussing with the health ministry how to implement this in practice for undocumented people.
Access to the GPs is already possible for undocumented people, in principle, but they would need to pay a so-called “voluntary social insurance”, which costs about 110€ per month. Through this, they can get a social security number, which they can use to access primary care, including COVID-19 vaccines at GPs. Obviously not everyone can afford to pay 110€ a month, and that’s why we’re working with other allies to call for universal health coverage. So what’s being proposed now is to open up access to the GPs for the COVID-19 vaccination, without paying this voluntary social insurance.
Are there any risks of immigration consequences for people who access the COVID-19 vaccines?
No, we even got a written guarantee from the health ministry that no data sharing would happen with other authorities. We also got a similar guarantee from the government IT centre (Centre de traitement informatique de l’Etat) which stores personal data for the purpose of delivering the COVID-19 certificates. These certificates are indeed handed to undocumented people too, on paper, at the vaccination point.
Are there any outstanding issues?
The biggest problem now is outreach. We were able to reach out to the Brazilian community, which is really engaged on access to the vaccines, and the Chinese and Balkans communities, but less so to people from originating from Africa, the Middle East and Maghreb. The government doesn’t seem particularly invested in publicising efforts to vaccinate undocumented migrants, probably because they fear that the issue would quickly become politicised.
Cover: Llibert Losada – Unsplash