Migrants, undocumented workers fear getting COVID-19 vaccine could lead to deportation

TORONTO — Advocates are calling for systemic changes to be implemented to Canada’s vaccine rollout to make the process more inclusive and safe for migrants and undocumented workers.

Syed Hassan of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change said many fear that getting vaccinated could lead to deportation or detainment due to lack of identification or law enforcement gaining access to vaccine database information.

Hassan said that what Canada needs is a “very clear system,” to ensure that “vaccination is provided for free, without a healthcard, with no name, address and ID information that is tracked – and if it is tracked, it’s not shared with federal law enforcement.”

Hassan said further fears arise for migrants and undocumented workers if institutions such as the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) potentially gain access to vaccination databases in efforts to find, detain or deport them.

“The provinces keep saying the vaccine is available to everyone but they’re not actually putting in place the concrete measures to make that happen,” Hassan said.

It’s estimated that there are 1.6 million people without citizenship or permanent status within Canada, and approximately 500,000 of those are undocumented.

Hassan said migrant workers, including farm workers, have been telling his organization that “their employers are saying that if they don’t get vaccinated, they will be kicked out of the country.”

“They’re being coerced into being vaccinated – you must be able to get the vaccine but you must also have the choice,” he said.

Hassan also called for health care workers who are providing the vaccines to get sensitivity training “immediately” so that “Black and brown and racialized people be provided vaccinations with dignity.”

Pointing out that vaccination programs had been “figured out” for people experiencing homelessness, Hassan said the same measures and extensions could be put to use for migrants and undocumented workers.

“You have to rely on people that they actually care about their health and will come back,” Hassan said. “The provincial and federal government are simply not putting into place the measures that ensure all of us are protected.”

“And if all of us aren’t protected, none of us are.”

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