Policy Brief No. 1, 2021
Inclusion of Vulnerable Migrant Groups in COVID-19 Vaccination Strategies in the UAE
The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread changes in the area of labour migration – with the impact upon migrant workers’ jobs and lives as well as those of their families. While the initial focus of countries of destination (COD) were to control the spread of the virus, migrant workers were seen as being disproportionately affected. In a larger sense, the sudden economic downturn and ensuing changes in the labour market led to large-scale layoffs and various other labour issues while at the most basic level, migrant workers struggled to secure access to healthcare, food, and uncrowded, hygienic accommodation.
Among them, vulnerable migrant groups such as those in irregular or undocumented status, domestic workers, and refugees (among others) were severely impacted in their daily lives. Primarily seeking assistance from non-governmental organisations, trade unions, civil society organisations such as community/diaspora organisations and faith-based organisations, these vulnerable migrant groups, many of whom worked in ‘essential’ sectors of the economy, also suffered from a lack of access to healthcare facilities in countries of destination. With the advent of various vaccines targeting the virus, the discourse on vaccine equity and prioritisation of vulnerable groups is critical not only for the containment of the virus but also for the protection and promotion of migrant workers’ rights.
This paper aims to understand migrant worker concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccination, particularly among vulnerable migrants and looks to recommend possible strategies for outreach to these groups, particularly within the United Arab Emirates, with emphasis upon the principles of Building Back Better and “No One Is Safe Until Everyone Is Safe”. This paper is developed for the purpose of informing the work of the Inter-Agency Working Group on Migration in UAE and future advocacy in ensuring all migrants, regardless of their legal status receive access to COVID-19 vaccination. For this, we look at existing context of access to healthcare for migrant workers, vaccination strategy in UAE and the role to be played by civil society within advocacy and outreach.