Pakistan blocks 3M refugees from COVID-19 jabs for lack of digital ID

Biometrics and digital ID

A requirement to have the national digital ID in order to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Pakistan could block as many as three million refugees from getting the jabs.

Only nationals, immigrants with Computerized National Identification Cards (CNICs) or refugees with official refugee status can attend vaccination centers and over 1.5 million unregistered refugees, especially from Afghanistan, will not qualify for jabs, according to the Anadolu Agency. This could harm the country’s overall vaccination campaign.

Almost three million people in Pakistan have been vaccinated out of a population of more than 210 million. There are around 2.8 million Afghan refugees, around half of whom are registered. There are also populations of unregistered Bengali, Nepali and Rohingya immigrants and refugees.

Added to these are local Pakistanis, particularly in rural areas, who have not registered for CNICs as people hoping to be vaccinated have to apply with the digital ID number, with an alternative option for documented refugees.

Vaccinations for correctly documented Afghan refugees have already begun. According to the UNHCR, which welcomed the development, more than ten Afghan refugees with Proof of Registration (PoR) cards were vaccinated as the program got underway at the beginning of May 2021.

Last August, the UNHCR even tweeted about the good work of Afghan refugees in the Pakistani border region of Peshawar, contributing to the COVID-19 effort:

The Pakistan Medical Association and NGOs have criticized the decision to block unregistered groups for accessing vaccinations. They say it will hamper the national effort to vaccinate all adults.

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