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Refugees, migrant workers left out of Lebanon COVID vaccine drive

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The government blames the slow rollout on the limited number of jabs available.

Video Transcript

ZEINA KHODR: Isolation is seen as a privilege for Palestinian and Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who have died from coronavirus at a higher rate than the national average. Along with migrant workers they make up 30% of a nation of 6 million people. They are included in the National Vaccination Campaign that is supposed to give equal priority to all. But many refugees don't seem to be aware of their rights.

MOHAMMED IBRAHIM: [SPEAKING ARABIC]

INTERPRETER: Nobody came and mentioned anything. But if asked, [? people would ?] surely take it.

ZEINA KHODR: Government data shows only 3% of those vaccinated so far are non-Lebanese. Human rights groups blame this on hesitancy, little information on how to register, and the government deviating from the national plan.

AYA MAJZOUB: The distribution by private sector has meant that they don't have to follow those priority categories. So you have on the one hand, people who are politically connected, or work for big organizations, or can buy the vaccine, who have access to it, and then people like migrant workers and refugees who depend on the national plan, who aren't getting vaccinated fast enough.

ZEINA KHODR: Health officials say the private sector is helping a near-bankrupt state. And limited supplies are the reason why only 2% of the adult population has so far been fully vaccinated.

ZAINAB BERRI: No one is preventing you from registering, because you are a Syrian, or a Palestinian, or Ethiopian, or whatever. If you are registered, and you are eligible to get the vaccine, one of the priority group, no one is depriving you from having an appointment.

ZEINA KHODR: But for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, registering can prove to be an issue.

FARAH BABA: They do not have enough accurate and reliable information on the different vaccines, the side effects, or any other information related to their legal status, given that a lot of them are undocumented. And nothing has yet been communicated publicly to give them guarantees that they will not be deported or arrested.

ZEINA KHODR: And they are not protected by the law.

The authorities, long accused of corruption and nepotism, enjoy little trust. Many question how they are distributing the vaccines. For example, a donation of 90,000 doses is being given outside the priority groups.

There is concern migrant workers and refugees, the vulnerable, won't get their turn if the criteria established is not followed. Zeina Khodr, Al Jazeera, Beirut.