Riyaz*, a Rohingya refugee who lives in a crowded camp in Delhi along with nearly 300 others, is desperate to get himself vaccinated against COVID-19. But India’s ongoing vaccination drive is only open to its own citizens or those with any of the 11 identity documents specified by the government.

All that Riyaz and the others in the camp have are the refugee cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “A few of us tried to get vaccinated but we were asked for Aadhaar cards,” he told IndiaSpend. The lack of an Aadhaar card also means that refugees cannot get themselves tested for COVID-19.

Most people were able to earn Rs 500-700 a day earlier to support their family, but now they are not able to find any work. “We need free vaccination because we cannot afford to pay,” he said.

Durgaram Sharma, 36, is a Nepalese security guard in an east Bengaluru apartment complex who has been living and working in India for 17 years. He has an Aadhaar card and can seek a vaccine in India but not his wife, Bindu, who has none of the requisite identity papers.

India’s newly liberalised vaccine policy makes all its adult citizens eligible, but makes no mention of the undocumented immigrants and refugees who live and work here: India currently has more than 240,000 refugees and asylum seekers and nearly 3.8 million Nepali and Bangladeshi immigrants.

In 2019, 95.3% of India’s immigrants originated in the same Sustainable Development Goal region (as per the United Nations’ classification for its SDG Goals programme—Central and Southern Asia, the latter comprising neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan). This number has not changed significantly from 1990 (96.8%), IndiaSpend reported in January 2021.

*The name has been changed to protect their identity.

Read the full article about COVID-19 vaccination for refugees by Shreehari Paliath at India Development Review.