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Botswana Assures Unauthorized Immigrants of COVID-19 Vaccinations


FILE - A health worker prepares a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Francistown, Botswana, March 26, 2021.

The Botswana government has sought to assure thousands of undocumented immigrants they will not be left out of the country's COVID-19 vaccination program.

Thousands of immigrants are crossing into Botswana, the majority fleeing economic hardships in neighboring Zimbabwe. Some undocumented migrants say they are being turned away from vaccination centers.

But Botswana’s assistant minister of health, Sethomo Lelatisitswe, told the National Assembly on Friday that no one, including immigrants, would be left out of the COVID-19 vaccination program. He said that if undocumented immigrants and refugees were left out, the country's hospitals would be full tomorrow.

Member of Parliament Dithapelo Keorapetse had asked during a National Assembly session whether undocumented immigrants were being vaccinated.

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Keorapetse said he didn’t understand why records weren't being kept about the number of migrants who have been vaccinated, in order to formulate a solid policy. He also said the migrants needed to know they were eligible for vaccination.

Mkhululi Moyo, one of the thousands of immigrants from neighboring Zimbabwe who left in search of better economic opportunities, said he was happy Botswana authorities had explained the policy on the vaccination of migrants.

“I am happy the [assistant] minister has clarified the issue of papers for foreigners," Moyo said. "We have a problem, but it means everything is well. We hope it will go smoothly according to what the minister said, and there will be no difficulties.”

Health authorities are emphasizing now they are unconditionally assisting undocumented migrants.

Botswana deports an estimated 22,000 unauthorized immigrants every year, mostly from Zimbabwe.

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