Enhancing refugees’ financial inclusion (access to microfinance and business development support)
Project status: active
Project duration: 2022
Project regional focus: Europe
Project description / background
The project will contribute to the improvement of refugees’ financial inclusion in Europe, in particular access to micro-finance and business development services, with special focus on building a favorable policy environment, raising awareness on refugees’ needs for financial services and coordinating stakeholder engagement to enable refugees’ effective access to finance.
While the legal framework for refugee integration and inclusion in Europe is quite favorable, with refugees having the right to work, freedom of movement, access to basic bank accounts and most social protection schemes, administrative and practical barriers persist, hindering effective access to financial services, including microfinance and business development services. Barriers may relate to inconsistencies within country regulations and guidelines governing Know-Your-Customer policies, as well as the documentation of refugees that may either limit access or lack recognition by financial service providers. In addition, Financial Service Providers are often unaware of the rights and circumstances of refugees, do not view them as potential (and profitable) customers or lack support for serving refugees. These challenges do not only prevent refugees from accessing financial services but also from obtaining sustainable livelihoods though decent work as entrepreneur or employee, which at a normally require a bank account and other mainstream financial services, including loans and BDS for entrepreneurs.
The project seeks to foster refugees’ financial inclusion in Europe through advocacy, awareness-raising, capacity-building, technical support and identification of good practices on refugees’ access to micro-finance and business development support.
The project will create a working group of financial inclusion stakeholders, including regulatory bodies, regional institutions, financial service providers and development actors to find practical solutions for addressing financial inclusion barriers faced by refugees. The objective of the Working Group is twofold. On the one hand it aims to identify examples of good and emerging practices, challenges, and opportunities in the field of Refugees’ Financial Inclusion in Europe. On the other hand, it is envisaged to serve as an advisory board for facilitating refugees´ financial inclusion, in particular access to micro-finance and business development services through establishing partnerships and networks, exploring practical solutions as well as informing about and advocating for funding and support mechanisms for financial service providers. In addition, the project will raise awareness on the issue through creating a dedicated section on the Microfinance Centre’s (MFC) website and thematic discussions during the MFC’s annual conference. Besides, the project will provide support to microfinance institutions (MFIs) interested in opening their products to refugees through guidance, accompaniment, mapping of existing practices, linking likeminded MFIs and raising challenges encountered with the working group.
Read more on refugees’ financial inclusion, good practices in access to microfinance, business development services, and financial service providers offering their products to Refugees:
Papers, guidance and toolkits:
- Country Assessment for Accessible and Affordable Remittances for Forcibly Displaced Persons – DRC (2020)
- Remittances Toolkit (2018)
- Country Assessment for Accessible and Affordable Remittances for Forcibly Displaced Persons – Uganda (2018)
- Roadmap to the sustainable and responsible financial inclusion of FDPs (2019)
- Displaced and disconnected (2019)
- Refugees and their money – the Rwanda business case (2018)
- Serving refugee populations: the new financial inclusion frontier (2017)
- Savings groups for refugees: 10 tips for development and humanitarian actors (2020)
- UNHCR webpage on financial inclusion
- Opinion of the European Banking Authority on the application of customer due diligence measures to customers who are asylum seekers from higher-risk third countries or territories-> PDF
Ukrainian Refugee Crisis:
- Strategic Dialogue meeting between DG EMP and Civil Society Organizations on the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis – Support Measures 14 March 2022 > PDF
- Ukraine Refugee Situation – UNHCR Data Portal
- Formalizing remittances for Forcibly Displaced People: findings from the DRC
- Can NFIS reach forcibly displaced persons
- How to Include Refugee Entrepreneurs in Microfinance
- Getting it right: providing financial services to refugees
- 5 Things You Should Know About Financial Services for Refugees
- Advancing the financial inclusion of refugees through an inclusive market system approach