Remittances sent to and from refugees and IDPs

Remittances sent to and from refugees and IDPs: a barely understood phenomenon - KNOMAD workshop and new GIZ project in Jordan shedding light on the dynamics

KNOMAD workshop and new GIZ project in Jordan shedding light on the dynamics

April 2016

Lotte Nordhus, Advisor, Sector Project Migration and Development, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn

In fragile contexts, sending and receiving money transfers from friends and family can become an important – and even vital – issue. Such remittance dynamics can be complex since refugee and internally displaced person (IDP) populations are often more dispersed than economic migrant groups and money typically flows in many different directions. On the one hand, refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs that have recently arrived to a new region or country often need support to start a new life and work (if that is allowed) or simply maintain themselves in a difficult and new situation. They may receive money from people that stayed behind or from relatives that have migrated to other places in the same region or far away in earlier migration waves. On the other hand, refugees and IDPs may be – sometimes particularly committed - remittances senders, especially after integrating into the job market at the new place of residence. They may send money to those left behind who often suffer, particularly if there is an ongoing crisis, or to friends and family in other receiving countries or regions. As a new literature review commissioned by the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD) highlights, remittance sending in a refugee and IDP context is more likely to be a consequence of movement rather than a driver of migration (as is the case for many economic migrants).

Data and studies on these remittance dynamics are very scarce, especially when it comes to IDPs as both senders and recipients and refugees as recipients of remittances. A workshop organized by KNOMAD on February 12 in Washington DC has brought together development practitioners, researchers and private sector actors to exchange existing knowledge and to develop ideas to improve data. Collecting data is particularly difficult in fragile and crisis contexts due to many factors: refugees and IDPs may be in danger and afraid of talking about financial and other personal issues, they may not speak the language of their new place of residence, may not have fixed addresses or official IDs, there might be specific regulatory hurdles and financial sanctions and the infrastructure might be less developed or destroyed. All of this makes sending money through formal channels more difficult. And of course, measuring informal flows is even more challenging.

First recommendations in terms of methodology from the workshop indicate that focus group discussions and indirect questions can help more than online surveys or direct questions to obtain reliable data on remittances sent to and from refugees and IDPs. A large research that will inform a new German Development Cooperation project in Jordan on “improving access to remittances through digital solutions” for refugees and low-income Jordanians in urban areas, will try to fill some of these gaps in research.