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The new report published by UNHCR on the impact of COVID-19 on stateless populations, warns that the latter have experienced particularly striking vulnerabilities from the start of the pandemic, as a result of their lack of nationality. In many contexts, stateless people were excluded from accessing testing and treatment due to lack of legal status, and were excluded from social services as well, being essentially invisible to the authorities.
According to UNHCR there are at least 4.2 million people without a nationality in 94 countries, whose mandate is to prevent and reduce statelessness, and to protect stateless people during the pandemic, ensuring that national vaccination plans are as inclusive as possible. UNHCR suggests the use of alternative forms of proof of identity than nationality or identity cards.
Despite the obstacles, the agency pointed out that the vaccination programme COVAX was set up by the World Health Organization to provide jabs to all 190 participating countries, helping them immunize their most vulnerable members of society.
UNHCR highlighted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on stateless people, explaining that it has worsened existing inequalities, such as their limited access to livelihoods and other social services.
In terms of good practices, a number of countries now offer universal COVID-19 vaccination strategies, including Spain, Portugal, Turkmenistan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Jordan. In the United Kingdom, undocumented migrants, including stateless people, will be able to receive the vaccine and their data will not be shared with the police.