MP Calls for Multilingual Vaccine Information for Asylum Seeker and Refugee Communities

Carol Monaghan, MP for Glasgow North West, has called on the UK Government to publish COVID-19 vaccine information in a variety of languages.

In recent weeks, refugee and asylum seeker organisations have expressed growing concern over the spread of vaccine misinformation amongst these communities.

Speaking in the House of Commons on 8th February, Monaghan raised this issue with Home Secretary Priti Patel, and asked what the UK Government is doing to counter the spread of such misinformation. Additionally, Monaghan asked what steps are being taken to ensure the publication of accurate vaccine information in asylum seekers’ and refugee’s native languages.

Unsatisfied by the Home Secretary’s answer to her questions, Monaghan has followed up with a letter to the Home Office. The letter reiterates the urgency and importance of prioritising the health and safety of refugee and asylum seeker communities.

Commenting on the situation, Monaghan said:
“During Home Office questions on Monday 8th February, the Home Secretary evaded my question regarding the publication of multilingual COVID-19 vaccine information. This is a serious issue that requires urgent attention from the UK Government.

“Over the past weeks, we have seen the extent to which vaccine misinformation can spread. Platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram can easily house false and dangerous narratives which undermine public health efforts. Such damaging misinformation is hard enough to counter even without the added challenge of potential language barriers.

“It makes practical and logistical sense to debunk vaccine misinformation in a wide variety of languages. This would encourage as high an uptake of the vaccine as possible amongst our most vulnerable communities. This of course includes our asylum seeker and refugee communities who may be receiving this misinformation in their own language.

“I welcome the UK Government’s ‘vaccine amnesty’, whereby undocumented individuals in the UK will be able to register with a GP for COVID-19 vaccinations without fear of prosecution. However, mistrust for the UK immigration system and the Home Office remains high amongst these communities; research from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants found that around half of those surveyed expressed fear at accessing healthcare services, as they were afraid of criminal prosecution or the sharing of information between the NHS and the Home Office.

“As such, it is clear that the UK Government must do more to reach out to asylum seeker and refugee communities. An important step in this process would be the sharing of accessible, scientifically accurate, multilingual information.

“Across the country, NGOs and grassroots organisations have been working tirelessly to support such communities. Within the Glasgow area, I am particularly impressed by the work of organisations such as Maryhill Integration Network (MIN) and the Scottish Refugee Council, who continue to support asylum seeker and refugee communities amid the pandemic.

“However, it is not the responsibility of not-for-profits alone to support these groups. The UK Government must tailor their public information efforts to reach those in some of our most marginalised communities.”