By Noel Moran, CEO of Prepaid Financial Services
At a crucial time in the immigration crisis in Europe, many National and Local Governments across the EU are struggling to find an effective way to manage fund disbursements to asylum seekers and refugees. Delivering and distributing substantial amounts of cash to processing centres, as well as managing its accurate disbursement to claimants present a huge number of operational and logistical challenges for Governments.
Asylum seekers are often in a vulnerable position, and can be targets for theft if they carry cash. Furthermore, tax payers and Government departments have an interest in knowing that funds are being distributed to claimants fairly, and according to the regulations.
Cash does not allow for effective monitoring, reporting or auditing, and the majority of Governments are taking steps towards eradicating cash entirely from their system to just make payments electronically.
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Asylum seekers are likely to be unbanked, making it difficult for them to be tracked once they enter EU countries. This is a major concern for many governments – it was recently reported that the Home Office lost track of over 10,000 asylum seekers in the UK and other EU Governments have acknowledged similar problems.
With all these factors in mind, it is apparent that cash payments are an impractical solution for both Governments and asylum seekers. Claimants need to be provided with a flexible payment product that enables them to receive payments instantly from the Government.
Prepaid innovation provides a solution
New innovations in the field of B2C payments have allowed for prepaid cards to be issued to refugees and asylum seekers via Governments across the SEPA zone.
As refugees will inevitably move across Europe and therefore not necessarily remain in the same country as their card was issued, prepaid cards simplify how a claimant receives their money, as well as providing Governments with greater ability to monitor spend activity across the entire EU.
The prepaid technology advantage for governments
Prepaid technology is already delivering functionality that matters; providing solutions that have real world practical use and deliver a tangible impact in terms of benefits for end-users and resource and auditability for National Governments.
Developed by prepaid FinTechs like ourselves these payment platforms are agile and work in real-time, as opposed to the traditional banking systems used by incumbents, which are held back by legacy infrastructure. In addition, reporting, monitoring and auditing is available to provide Governments with better control over budgets, while streamlining operations and resources. Spend can be blocked right down to retailer/MCC level if necessary, and instant fraud alerts can be implemented; minimising risk.
Prepaid services can be fully managed by companies that are experts in the field of issuing payment products to governments, local authorities and councils. Tailored solutions can be created to meet the exact requirements of this sector and designed with the aim of delivering cost savings and efficiencies by eradicating cash payments from their systems.
In addition, prepaid solutions eliminate cash completely from immigration centres and remove the logistical challenges of transporting large amounts of cash.
Benefits for end-users using prepaid solutions
Prepaid cards support enablement, empowerment and safety for asylum seekers. A recent scheme that provided coloured wristbands for asylum seekers to access to food came under fire recently, as despite having good intentions, it ‘singled out’ asylum seekers in the community. If asylum seekers were provided with cards, this could have been avoided.
One of the major issues is that without the means to open a bank account, asylum seekers can only carry cash. Prepaid cards can provide asylum seekers with a payment product which allows them to spend online, in stores and withdraw from an ATM, with contactless payment functionality – just like a normal debit card. Unlike cash, prepaid cards provide asylum seekers with a way to gain more control of their finances and budget effectively.
Prepaid solutions offer people the opportunity to take financial responsibility into their own hands, which makes a real difference to this vulnerable group. Prepaid card accounts come with online banking too, allowing asylum seekers to manage their own funds – just the same as everyone else.
Prepaid cards offer considerable benefits for both the body distributing funds and the end-user. With the crisis in Europe looking to continue for the foreseeable future, it is crucial that governments look for alternatives to the way in which they manage disbursements to some of the most vulnerable people in society.