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Help Migrant Workers Transfer Money to their Families

Tuesday, 25 February, 2020

Due to the worsening economic crisis, migrant workers in Lebanon are unable to transfer money to their families abroad. Their families rely on this money for survival. 
 

“We have come across countless stories in recent weeks of families in rural areas of Ethiopia caught off-guard by the sudden interruption to their cash flow. Discontinued remittances have produced severe material consequences like food insecurity and a lack of access to education.”

Writes Banchi Yimer, a vocal activist for domestic workers’ rights and a former domestic worker in Lebanon herself

Why are migrant workers struggling to transfer money abroad?

Money transfer companies only accept US dollars for transfers. Most migrant workers are getting paid in Lebanese pounds. Their only option is to exchange their Lebanese pounds to US dollars before sending them abroad. The market exchange rate in Lebanon has reached 2,500 LBP for the dollar, which means that workers are losing 40% of the value of their money to make the transfer.

Why don’t employers pay workers in USD or in LBP at the market exchange rate?

They definitely should! We will continue to call on employers to do so. However, we do not want workers to lose time and money while we continue campaigning for employers to do the right thing.

Let's help any way we can!

A group of activists, supported by Anti-Racism Movement, have come up with a temporary solution to this problem. We developed a website that can match people who have dollars or euros (senders) with migrant workers’ families (receivers). We have already completed 3 successful international transfers to Ethiopia, Cameroon and Bangladesh. Many more workers have signed up to benefit from this initiative. We are looking for more senders to volunteer!

How can I participate?

If you live outside of Lebanon, you can transfer money in USD directly to a migrant worker’s family in their country and then retrieve your money in LBP from us in person once you visit Lebanon. You could also send a relative or friend on your behalf to retrieve the money from us if you’re not planning on visiting Lebanon anytime soon.

All you need to do is log in to the website and fill in some basic information. You will then be matched with a migrant worker and will receive instructions to make your transfer (name, amount, country).

Please note that by participating, you are agreeing to:

  1. Donate the transfer fees (less than $10 USD, exact amount varies across countries)
  2. Retrieve your money (minus the transfer fees) at the rate of 1,500 LBP for the dollar, regardless of the official or market exchange rates at the time of transfer or the time of money retrieval. This means that you are also donating the difference in exchange rate.

Is it safe to send money abroad through this system?

The way this works is we take money in LBP from the worker before we add them to the website. This means that you can only get matched with people who have already given us money. So whatever amount you send abroad, we already have the equivalent in LBP (at official rate) put aside for you.

Can I sign up if I am based in Lebanon and have USD?

Yes, the website gives you that option. You will still have to transfer the money yourself through a Western Union branch. This is because we are a group of volunteers and have no funding to cover any of the transfer fees. As for the workers themselves, they are already paid less and are struggling to get by. Please note that you will be required to pay the transfer fees in US dollars as well.

What is the minimum amount I can contribute?

The minimum transfer you can make is $100 USD, of which you will get back 150,000 LBP (official rate). You would pay the transfer fee yourself (less than $10).

What happens when I sign up?

You need to fill all the required information, save it and click [Match with someone] and then [Confirm] for the process to be complete. You will then be matched with a worker and receive instructions to make the transfer within 72 hours.

Why do I need to make the transfer within 72 hours?

When you are matched with a worker, their profile becomes invisible to other senders while she waits for you to complete the transfer. She will not be able to get matched with anyone else during that time.

I signed up, clicked [Match with someone] but found no results. Why?

If you are not matched right away, it means there are currently no workers who match the amount you put in. If this is the case, we will contact you by email whenever a new worker that matches your amount signs up.

How do I transfer cash through Western Union?

  • You go to a Western Union branch and give the name of the country and the name of the recipient.
  • They will ask to see your ID.
  • You give the cash (amount to transfer + transfer fees).
  • You will get a receipt with an MTCN number.
  • You click on [ I SENT THE MONEY ] and upload a picture of the receipt to the website
  • Once you upload the receipt, we will contact the recipient and give them the MTCN number.
  • They will then withdraw the cash from any Western Union branch in their country by providing: ID, name, amount, and MTCN number.
  • We will inform you when the amount has been withdrawn so that you or a friend can pick up the equivalent amount in LBP.

When will I get reimbursed?

You can collect your payment as soon as we receive confirmation of receipt from the worker’s family. We will contact you or the person you nominated to arrange a pick-up time.

 

Thank you for standing in solidarity with migrant workers and their families!