Supporting financial independence for refugees in Europe
The number of refugees across Europe has drastically increased over the past few years, with figures estimated at 12.4 million at the end of 20221. As refugees continue to grapple with the trauma and uncertainty of displacement, this rapid surge in numbers has put pressure on the support services and resources of the host countries, supporting businesses and non-governmental organisations across Europe.
However, the situation has also presented potential opportunities for economic growth and integration. Investing in the inclusion of refugees into their host country can yield substantial benefits for businesses and thus the economy as a whole. A study by the Tent Partnership for Refugees and the Open Political Economy Network2 showed for every Euro invested in welcoming refugees, nearly two Euros in economic benefits are generated within five years.
Empowering refugees through financial inclusion
In 2022, Visa undertook internal research to deepen its understanding of how payments and financial services could provide support, while fostering financial education and inclusion for refugees in Europe.
The research made two key findings. The first was the need to build or adapt financial tools and services specifically designed for refugees. The second was understanding the provision of wrap-around services that enable refugees to utilise existing financial products and services effectively.
Based on these insights, Visa launched a programme with five key workstreams:
• Financial Products & Solutions: An example of Visa’s work has been the introduction of prepaid cards as part of its Ukraine issuing programme and is piloting the same in Germany and France. These cards are aimed at providing refugees with a secure and convenient way to manage their finances.
• Talent Recruitment & Development: Visa has become a founding partner with the Incubating Freedom Academy, a programme committed to training 1,000 Ukrainian women in technology skills to bring them into the labour market.
• Mentoring & Skills Development: Visa has partnered with the Tent Partnership for Refugees to expand a mentoring and skills development initiative across Europe. The programme aims to empower refugees with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in their host communities, with Visa employees also taking part.
• Partnerships & Grants: Understanding the power of collaboration, Visa Foundation has donated $2 million to UNICEF Ukraine response and has extended support to SINGA, a global network that supports the professional integration of refugees.
• Sponsorship & Spotlight: to raise awareness and garner support for the cause of refugees, Visa launched its inaugural Visa Everywhere Pioneer 20 list in partnership with WeAreTheCity to spotlight and celebrate trailblazing refugee women.
To further understand the unique needs and circumstances of these displaced populations, Visa partnered with Minds and Roses, a leading research organisation, to conduct a comprehensive survey. The results were eye-opening. For instance, 90 per cent of refugees from Ukraine are women and children. This demographic shift necessitates tailored support systems and policies to ensure their successful integration into host societies.
The survey also revealed that half of the Ukrainian women who migrated to Poland following the outbreak of war still heavily rely on basic funds received from government or non-governmental organisations. This finding underscores the pressing need for sustainable, long-term solutions that go beyond just providing basic funds.
The path to financial independence for refugees
From the findings, it is evident there is a potential to transform global migration into a catalyst for economic growth and social integration. To achieve this, a collaborative effort is required, encompassing public-private partnerships, cross-industry collaborations and innovative thinking.
At Visa we will continue to pioneer new financial products and services that can be tailored to the needs of refugees. In addition, we will champion financial literacy programmes that can empower refugees to make informed financial decisions, paving the way for their financial independence and long-term economic resilience.
About financial inclusion at Visa
We’re focused on leveraging our 60 years’ experience to continue to help connect individuals and organisations to a global system that enables fast, safe, and reliable financial transactions; and ultimately financial inclusion. By leveraging our expertise in payments and financial services, Visa is not only providing refugees with the financial tools they need but is also empowering them with skills, opportunities, and support to rebuild their lives. This underscores our belief in the power of financial inclusion to transform lives and create a more inclusive and equitable world.
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