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New report: Migrants hit a wall in accessing COVID-19 care and vaccines worldwide

9 March 2021

A Red Cross Red Crescent report released today reveals new data about the barriers migrants have faced in accessing basic services like food, housing and healthcare, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report – Locked down and left out? Why access to basic services for migrants is critical to our COVID-19 response and recovery – strongly urges the inclusion and support for migrants in the global vaccine rollout.

The report draws on research carried out by National Societies in eight countries by the newly established Global Migration Lab, hosted by Australian Red Cross and supported by the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

As part of this global project, Australian Red Cross also conducted research* with 1,925 people in Australia on temporary visas as well as sector stakeholders in October 2020.

Australian Red Cross Head of Migration Support Programs Vicki Mau said, “In Australia, the largest barrier to staying safe in the pandemic, for people on temporary visas, has been a lack of access to sustainable safety nets like Medicare or Centrelink. This has meant many have to choose between things like paying rent or seeking urgent medical treatment.

“Government emergency relief packages, funding and support for casework made a critical difference helping people access food, medicine and pay essential bills. Over 125,000 people have been supported through the relief distributed by Red Cross alone. Many more rely on longer-term assistance from community organisations, friends and family.

"While we know the peak in new applications is over, we are increasingly seeing people in particularly difficult situations and with more complex needs referred for support.

“As we continue to respond to the pandemic, we welcome the Australian government’s inclusion of people on temporary visas in the domestic vaccine roll out. We know that unless as many people as possible are included, the virus will continue to circulate, potentially undermining vaccination efforts.

“We also look forward to a proactive approach by governments to ensure the inclusion of people who may not understand the vaccination process, or are nervous about accessing it, or who may not think they are eligible as they don’t have a Medicare card or might not be clear on their visa status.

“Measures need to be put in place to help vulnerable populations easily access vaccines. This could be achieved by granting vaccines regardless of visa status, outreach to community organisations and groups to ensure information is shared, and considering regularisation of visa status during the pandemic,” Ms Mau said.

*Australian Red Cross conducted research with 1,925 people in late October 2020 as well as 46 interviews and six focus groups in October and November 2020. Participants were people on temporary visas or without visas as well as Red Cross migration support staff, volunteers and other migration sector stakeholders.

For media queries, contact media@redcross.org.au or 1800 733 443