Monday

25th Jan 2021

Opinion

Technology and digital banking could help refugees

  • A Syrian refugees camp in Turkey. Digital technology could transform the lives of many people. (Photo: European Parliament)

The average refugee is displaced for a decade. Take a moment to think about that.

Uprooted from their home. Fleeing for safety. Forced to desperately try to rebuild better lives for themselves and their families. Food, shelter and other more traditional forms of aid are vital in meeting their immediate needs in the aftermath of conflict.

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

But the shocking length of displacement and the fact that 60 percent of refugees are living in cities and communities – not refugee camps – means that handing out stuff is no longer sufficient.

Technology and digital banking, in particular, can offer some solutions. Refugees are people who have the ability to decide for themselves what their needs are, and the response system needs to be shaped towards that fact.

At the International Rescue Committee (IRC), we know that the refugee crisis is manageable – not unsolvable. Manageable if we rethink our perception of today’s refugee, and exploit the digital opportunities for delivering aid and vital services.

That means treating refugees as we’d like to be treated ourselves. Not with prescriptive solutions to the challenges they face, but with the tools and resources they need to write their own story.

G20 summit

World leaders will meet at the end of this week (7-8 July) in Hamburg, Germany, for the G20 summit.

The German presidency of the G20 has shown their commitment to this kind of bold thinking. They have focused on building the resilience of refugees. Labour ministers, digital ministers, finance ministers and business leaders have discussed this at the highest levels.

Now is their opportunity to translate words into action.

Refugees’ resilience depends on structural changes that allow for self-reliance, rather than entrapping people in a system of dependence. That means safe and decent work, education, and a secure digital way of managing finances.

Refugees, who may be displaced for generations, need to manage their savings and wages. For over 60 percent of the world’s adults, a bank account is a given. But right now, many refugees are being denied that right – only seven percent of adults living in crises have one.

We must do better to help people fleeing a crisis, to overcome barriers to banking that include lost or invalid identity documents and inflexible rules.

We are pleased that the German presidency has pushed up the financial inclusion of refugees and migrants in the G20 agenda. Now the G20 must commit to the financial resilience and inclusion of refugees, and deliver policy solutions to address barriers.

Connectivity is key

For many refugees, their mobile phone is their lifeline, including for managing and receiving finances. So digital connectivity is key.

The G20’s digital ministers agreed a target for all people around the world to have access to the internet by 2025. But the IRC’s research has found that high-risk, disaster-prone countries are too often neglected in initiatives to expand digital infrastructure.

Let’s help refugees build their independence and get online whilst on the move. In the short-term, this means emergency electronic payments from aid agencies (cash relief) and, in the longer-term, money transfers, salaries and mobile banking. A secure, pro-market solution that helps to integrate refugees into a new economy.

This week, world leaders will have the opportunity to define G20 commitments and set the agenda for action when they come together in Hamburg.

They will also have the opportunity to bring business together with government and humanitarian agencies in support of refugees.

Let’s start to shift the mindset of a helpless population of refugees, who bring with them a "burden" of expense, and begin to recognise refugees as intelligent, independent and resilient people, who want to re-build their future for themselves and their families.

Let’s bank on a better future for them and let them define their own opportunities. It’s self-defeating not to offer them the services and tools technology offers to rebuild their lives. And it will be better for everyone in the long term.

Daphne Jayasinghe is an Economic Recovery & Development Policy Adviser at the International Rescue Committee.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Refusing refugees would cost EU funds, MEP says

The Swedish liberal MEP Cecilia Wikstroem seeks to introduce a five-year transition period for countries that are not ready to take in asylum seekers under the reformed Dublin system.

Big changes in EU migration governance

Despite public debate sometimes being on the wrong side of the fence, there have been a number of developments in tackling asylum and migration in Europe.

Column / Brussels Bytes

Commission right to reject screen-scraping ban

Screen-scraping, which is the process of scanning what the customer sees when they log into their online bank accounts, should still be allowed as a fail-safe.

Will EU ever take action to stop Israeli settlements?

The EU-Israel Association Agreement, and Israel's systematic violation of its article 2, must be stopped until Israel implements its obligations under international law. This should not be a matter of controversy, but the least peace-loving countries must do.

News in Brief

  1. AstraZeneca told to meet EU vaccine supply commitments
  2. Estonia to get first woman prime minister
  3. Turkey and Greece to hold Mediterranean security talks
  4. Dutch police detain 240 in anti-lockdown protests
  5. Renewables overtake fossil fuels in EU electricity mix
  6. France's top scientist warns of corona 'emergency'
  7. Growing appetite for Northern Ireland independence
  8. Surge in support for Portuguese far-right party

Column

BioNTech: Stop talking about their 'migration background'

I understand that the German-Turkish community - often subjected to condescension in Germany - celebrated the story. Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türecki represent scientific excellence and business success at the highest level.

Italy's return to statism spells trouble for the eurozone

There are profound questions about whether the windfall of cash from the EU coronavirus recovery fund will truly help Italy recover or whether it will cause more problems than it solves, for Rome and the rest of the eurozone.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Navalny protests sharpen EU sanctions talks
  2. Why Russia politics threaten European security
  3. MEPs call for workers to have 'right to disconnect'
  4. Reality bites EU's 'No More Morias' pledge
  5. Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity
  6. Vaccine delay and Russia sanctions debates This WEEK
  7. Will EU ever take action to stop Israeli settlements?
  8. EU leaders keep open borders, despite new corona variant risk

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us