The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has sounded the alarm on the situation experienced by migrants during the coronavirus pandemic, urging governments not to forget them in vaccination plans.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on November 27 issued an urgent call to governments "not to forget migrants as the battle against COVID-19 enters a new phase."
The UN agency noted that, "even as headlines of a new vaccine raise hope that the darkest days of the pandemic may be ending, a current second wave of infection rates up to ten times higher in parts of Europe than those last spring."
The UN agency said participants in a meeting last week of the South-Eastern Europe Health Network (SEEHN), organized in Skopje, "learned that a combination of harsh winter conditions and seasonal flu likely will put a massive strain on already-overburdened health services."
IOM's Senior Regional Health Advisor Jaime Calderon said "this is bad news for the tens of thousands of migrants in the region," addressing the forum.
"All too often, migrants encounter obstacles in accessing health services -- due to language and cultural barriers, fees they cannot afford, and lack of inclusive health policies."
Guarantees that nobody is left behind
SEEHN is a network linking the governments of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Montenegro, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia and North Macedonia. IOM stressed that each of these is a source country - and increasingly a transit country - for migrants.
"Some 30,000 migrants passed irregularly through the region this year, about the same as previous years, despite pandemic restrictions," the agency noted.
"There are about 12,500 currently in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 7,100 in Serbia."
Calderon urged governments to include migrants in public health strategies and vaccination plans. ''Vaccines are among our most critical and cost-effective tools to prevent outbreaks and keep communities safe and healthy," he stressed.
"For everyone to thrive, countries must intensify efforts to ensure that no one is left behind and all migrants - no matter their legal status - have access to the life-saving benefits of vaccines."