'Would they report me to immigration?' - Undocumented workers fear over getting the vaccine


Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.19 11 May 2021


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As the vaccination roll-out continues, there is one community who are afraid to enquire about getting access to the vaccine: undocumented migrants.

It is estimated that up to 20,000 undocumented people are living here, with many of them working across a range of sectors.

Newstalk's Josh Crosbie has been speaking with two Filipino women, who work as carers in Ireland.

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One woman, Chello, told Newstalk Breakfast: "I've never been in the GP since 2015, because I'm kind of afraid to go there - that fear is on my mind all the time."

Another woman, Sonia who moved to Ireland in 2008, said: "You will feel unsafe at times; you will be thinking that one agency of the Government is straight away connected to the immigration.

"That's our fear, that's really playing in our head."

Sonia said there have been many times she did not seek medical treatment owing to her visa status.

"I have a PPS number but I didn't have my working visa... being undocumented, you would still be afraid if they would ask you your name.

"And then you might be thinking 'What if they were asking me with my status here - would they report me straight away to the immigration?'".

Sonia said she "of course" wants the vaccine, if for no other reason to protect the people she is working with.

"The thing is I wanted to have the vaccine because with my job - my lady is fully vaccinated - I don't want to spread it, I don't want to give it to my lady.

"I feel very accountable for the life that is entrusted in our hands".

"Even though we're undocumented, we're also essential to the community - I hope they will recognise us.

"And we're really grateful to the Minister of Justice Helen McEntee for prioritising the undocumented - maybe, though that regularisation, we will be able to achieve what we are looking forward to.

"Having the paper, we'll be able to see our family back home - we won't be afraid to go back and forth.

"Six years not being able to see my children - that's really hard - and my mom and husband, that's a long time".

'I have no choice'

Chello has lived her since 2015 and is a fellow carer. She said life under the radar can be draining.

"Because I'm undocumented when it comes to looking for work, it's limited.

"I ended up like I have no choice at all but to accept this, I don't have any demands."

She said there have been times she wanted to go to a GP, "but because of the fear I chose not to.

"The carers who come everyday to help me, they're all vaccinated - but how about me?

"I don't have any shield from the virus, so I'm worried about myself - I'm afraid to enquire about it.

"They will ask 'Where's your PPS' or whatever, and what will I show them? Nothing."

Minister Helen McEntee has said those who are undocumented have nothing to fear about getting the vaccine.

'Temporary firewall'

Mairead McDevitt is from the Migrants Rights Centre. She said even though people have been told their information will not be shared, many do not want to risk it.

"We would estimate there is between 15,000 and 20,000 undocumented people living in Ireland, including up to 3,000 children and young people.

"They work across a broad and diverse labour market... they would usually be in low-paid working conditions.

"As the two women here have highlighted, still that fear is always there in the back of their minds that if they make that call they'll somehow be found out.

"Even though we have this temporary firewall during COVID, there's no guarantee this firewall's going to be in place after COVID.

"We're really encouraging the authorities to keep this firewall in place, because access to healthcare is a basic human right that everyone should have".

Listen to the full report below:

'Would they report me to immigration?' - Undocumented workers fear over getting the vaccine

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

   

Main image: A healthcare worker receives a dose of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at the Marikina Sports Centre in Marikina City, the Philippines. Picture by: ROUELLE UMALI/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

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Carers Chello Filipino Josh Crosbie Mairead McDevitt Migrants Rights Centre Sonia Undocumented Workers Vaccination Roll Out Vaccine

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