The COVID-19 vaccines and undocumented migrants in Portugal

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 Maria Lapa of Amnesty International Portugal to discuss the situation in Portugal. It is not meant to offer an exhaustive picture of the legal and practical context in the Portugal. Please get in touch at info@picum.org if you have information you’d like to share, and follow our Twitter page @PICUM_post to get more recent updates.

What does the Portuguese vaccination strategy say about undocumented migrants?

The Portuguese vaccination strategy doesn’t really mention undocumented migrants, but it does say that access to the vaccines is “universal”, meaning that it will be available to anyone who lives in Portugal. Access to health care is anyways possible for undocumented migrants under national law.

Public officials also announced that they’re working on a specific plan to identify and vaccinate undocumented migrants. In addition, the Ministry of Health created a dedicated registration platform to let undocumented people book their vaccine.

Can you tell us more about this platform?

Sure. Essentially, it’s a website where undocumented people can book their vaccination against COVID-19. The website, in Portuguese and in English, is adapted to them in terms of the data that they’re required to provide. On this website, people only need to provide their address, birth date, phone number and nationality. Civil society organizations seem to be playing an important role in helping migrants sign up to the platform.

According to official figures from June 2021, more than 19000 undocumented migrants have signed up.

Who manages the data provided in the platform?

The data is managed by the National Health Authority, which oversees the vaccination process. In the platform, they state that the data will be shared with the relevant entities and only for the purpose of the vaccination.

Where are undocumented migrants vaccinated? And are they required any specific documents at the vaccination point?

Undocumented migrants can go to the same vaccination centres as everyone else. It’s unclear what documents they’d need to provide, but since all vaccinations are pre-scheduled, my guess is that there would be a list for this population.

Are there any practical barriers for undocumented people to get the vaccine?

Yes, the coordinator of the vaccination task force has admitted that it’s been hard to identify migrants for the vaccination process. He also said that as long as the person is identified “they have every right to be vaccinated” because “the pandemic doesn’t choose nationality, race or age”. So it’s good to see these kind of positive statements from the coordinator, but I think that the success of this initiative will depend a lot on the ability of civil society organisations to reach out to migrant communities and convince them to trust the process enough to agree to sign up for vaccination

 

Cover: Unsplash – André Lergier

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