Totaled together as the sum of small sacrifices, remittances which begin as simple financial transfers from an immigrant or a migrant worker thousands of miles away to their families back home are not only lifeblood to their relatives and communities in the home country, but also are frequently critical to the entire national economy of whole countries. Yet removed by a generation or more, the first response is almost always, “What is a remittance?” Perhaps that is natural, but more disturbing is that entire governments and their national banking systems, who know too well the importance of remittances both domestically and internationally, often ignore the predatory, irregular, and perilous nature of these transfers for people who are often not citizens with any voice or simply workers passing through and easily forgotten and expended. The simple answer to the question of remittances is that they are transfers of money from workers and relatives to families in the home country. After that everything becomes more complicated, and that is what ACORN International is examining in this report.
The GSU Remittance Justice Team worked with ACORN International on the current Remittance Justice Campaign to raise awareness about profiteering by banks and money transfer organizations and analyze remittance trends in and around the metro Atlanta area in order to influence these organizations to lower fees on the transactions involved in sending money to friends and family living outside the United States. We collected 204 surveys from immigrants and refugees, developed 8 partnerships with community organizations and created a blog for general interest building and education as well as electronic survey collection. Our resulting data confirmed existing research regarding remittance practices and will provide our sponsor with a view of the local attitudes toward the remittance process and fees charged. Our team learned the importance of engaging key stakeholders within a community and the necessity of approaching an issue from the perspective of the affected parties.
This report describes some of the cultural and economic factors involved in the payment of remittances by immigrants in Metro Vancouver. With increasing immigration to the Metro Vancouver area, particularly by temporary foreign workers, remittances are both culturally and economically significant and represent important ties between nations and within transnational families. The fees charged for international money transfers are currently unregulated in Canada, and often represent a substantial cost to senders and recipients. The World Bank suggests that the cost of sending money (including fees and exchange rate premiums) should not exceed 5% of the money remitted. Many of the immigrants interviewed for this study pay much higher rates to send money.