27th May 2022

Loophole: Italy's vaccinated migrants can't get Covid pass

  • The latest stumbling block is Italy's green pass — a certificate of vaccination needed to access everything from public transport to restaurants — which migrants, despite being inoculated, cannot access since they do not possess a national health card (Photo: Rebecca Ann Hughes)
Listen to article

The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent policies implemented by the Italian government have shone a spotlight on the perilous situation for undocumented migrants in Italy.

Without residence permits, and therefore unregistered in the national health system, many refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have found themselves unable to seek medical assistance amid a health crisis.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The latest stumbling block is Italy's green pass — a certificate of vaccination needed to access everything from public transport to restaurants — which migrants, despite being inoculated, cannot access since they do not possess a national health card.

As labour shortages amid the Covid emergency began to affect food supply chains, many European countries saw the importance of regularising undocumented migrants. Italy was particularly quick to take action in support of 'invisibles', foreigners without residence permits and often working illegally in sectors like agriculture and domestic work.

However, the regularisation scheme, launched in May 2020, soon transpired to have numerous flaws including the limited selection of eligible sectors, severe delays and excessive bureaucracy.

Open Democracy reported last week that only 12.7 percent of applications have thus far been processed, and only five percent of those have resulted in a residence permit being issued. Those still waiting remain vulnerable, without access to healthcare and, until recently, coronavirus vaccines.

Despite the Italian government's assurances that all people, regardless of legal status, have access to vaccination, in practice this has not been the case.

In order to reserve a vaccination slot, most regional booking systems require a code from Italy's national health cards, which are issued to those with residence permits.

Migrants, instead, are issued with a "temporarily present foreigner" (STP) code in order to facilitate access to health services, but the New York Times reported in June that only three regions were accepting it for jab bookings.

The situation means migrants themselves remain at risk and so does wider society - especially considering many undocumented foreigners work as helpers for the elderly.

After appeals from charities and migrant rights groups, the vaccination rollout for migrants began to pick up over the summer.

But just as quickly, another obstacle presented itself. In Italy, those who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine can access and download a "green pass" that acts as proof of inoculation (or proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the previous 48 hours).

The government now requires the green pass for access to numerous services including indoor dining, cinemas, museums and sports facilities. The green pass is also mandatory for accessing long-distance public transport and schools (students excluded).

But in order to download the green pass, the online national health system requires users to key in their national health card code (or use a document such as a passport or identity card or a tax code).

As such, migrants might be vaccinated, but they are unable to prove it and therefore remain excluded from many services they should be permitted to access.

Many have voiced anger over what is seen as a discriminatory situation. The Milanese branch of the Italian Confederation of Workers' Trade Unions criticised the difficulties for foreigners in the Lombardy region, while the Castel Volturno solidarity network has urged the Campania region to deal with the inadequacy of the system.

"For three weeks now, our operators have been helping hundreds of foreign citizens without a residence permit to download the green pass after the completion of the vaccination cycle," said the network dedicated to assisting foreigners in the area.

Migrant rights activist Aboubakar Soumahoro has called it yet another example of Italy's "hierarchy of rights" that penalises migrants. "The green pass cannot be another occasion to keep afloat discrimination," he said in a Twitter video. "This is my appeal: issue a residence permit during health emergencies to everyone forced to live invisibly to allow them to have a doctor, to be visible."

Author bio

Rebecca Ann Hughes is a freelance journalist in Venice.


The activists calling out racism In Italy's media

Italian activists are collating a growing Instagram collection of racist, sexist and homophobic content in the media. But their battle to stop the use of the n-word, blackface and offensive content on Italian TV means standing up to ingrained racism.


4m undocumented migrants, red tape, and the vaccine

Administrative barriers in at least 10 European countries are blocking access to Covid-19 vaccines for nearly four million undocumented migrants. Countries including Germany, Spain, Norway and Bulgaria require some form of ID, health card or a residency permit.

Covid-pass protestors try to storm Romanian parliament

The protest was organised by the far-right populist party the Alliance for Romanian Unity (AUR), which is strongly against Covid restrictions and against the law that would make a certificate mandatory for the workplace.


Why Is Italy struggling to convert its anti-vaxxers?

Almost every weekend, protesters continue to hold demonstrations and sit-ins across Italy in opposition to the so-called "green pass" — proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid test needed to access workplaces and a whole host of public services.


What Europe still needs to do to save its bees

On World Bee Day, it is essential to pay homage to a variety of pollinating insects crucial for our food security. A number of EU projects contribute to their sustained survival.


The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us