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‘Families came first’ for remittances in year of pandemic, says Guterres

June 16, 2021
Money exchanger services are vital for families who rely on money sent from relatives and friends abroad in the form of remittances. — courtesy UN Photo/Stuart Price
Money exchanger services are vital for families who rely on money sent from relatives and friends abroad in the form of remittances. — courtesy UN Photo/Stuart Price

GENEVA — Migrants working away from their families made significant sacrifices to send money home last year as they did before COVID, UN chief António Guterres said on Wednesday, warning that now is not the time for countries to withdraw their support to these key workers.

The secretary-general’s message to mark the International Day of Family Remittances, comes as World Bank data showed that cash wired home from migrants in wealthy countries, dropped only 1.6 percent in 2020 from 12 months earlier, to $540 billion, far lower than initial estimates.

“Migrants put their families first,” by buying less and dipping into their savings to send money to relatives, Guterres said.

“Fortunately, remittances have proved to be much more resilient and dependable than expected,” he added.

Big value on small remittances

Individual remittances may not be of high value but collectively the flows are three times greater than global official overseas development assistance, according to the UN.

They underwrite many basic household needs and support education and entrepreneurship, which often prove transformational for households and local communities, and contribute to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Local currency depreciation in recipient countries and increased government support for formal migrants in host countries during the pandemic, also had an impact on keeping remittances buoyant.

Protect migrants

Looking forward, Guterres said efforts must continue to support and protect migrants, who — as the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear — play an important role in keeping essential services and economies running in many parts of the world.

“Ensuring that all migrants, regardless of legal immigration status, are included in COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans, is critical for the health and safety of all,” he underscored.

Calling them “a lifeline in the developing world”, he also advocated for continued efforts to reduce the costs of transferring remittances to as close to zero as possible, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to foster financial inclusion for migrants and their families, especially in poor rural areas.

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration offers a unified framework for such actions, the secretary-general said. — UN News


June 16, 2021
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