SEOUL, March 1 (Korea Bizwire) – As South Korea’s coronavirus vaccine drive kicks off, hopes are rising for a rapid return to normal life.
However, migrant workers, often excluded from the government’s quarantine policies, are more concerned than they are excited for the vaccine.
“We haven’t heard about any vaccination plans for migrant workers yet,” said Udaya Rai, head of the Migrants’ Trade Union.“We are worried that we’re going to be last in line.”
Migrant workers have been subject to a series of discriminatory policies during the course of the pandemic.
When the government introduced a mask rationing system in March of last year, migrant workers were only allowed to purchase masks if they submitted both a foreigner registration card and a health insurance certificate, while South Koreans only had to submit their identification card to make a purchase.
Migrant workers were also excluded from receiving emergency disaster relief payments after the government decided to disburse funds only to foreigners included in the resident registration list, permanent residents, and married immigrants carrying health insurance.
Migrant workers are basically living in confinement as they are comparatively more exposed to the risk of infection.
While vaccination should help overcome such risks, migrant workers are hesitant to get vaccinated since their status as undocumented workers could be exposed to authorities, resulting in their deportation.
“Migrant workers struggle with the language barrier, which prevents them from gaining access to information. It also prevents them from raising a unified voice when it comes to social issues,” said Kim Dal-sung, head of the Pocheon Migrant Worker Center.
“They are particularly vulnerable to infection because they work and live under poor conditions.”
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)