Category Archive : Campaigns

Sign the Petition to Reduce Remittance Rates

Tiempo: En el parque hacen campaña “Por la Justicia de las Remesas”

SAN PEDRO SULA – Representantes de Acorn International denunciaron esta mañana que las empresas intermediarias en el proceso de envío de remesas se quedan con 20 de cada 100 dólares enviados por los hondureños en el extranjero.

Acorn International es una federación asentada en varios países y que acoge a representantes de comunidades pobres. Esta mañana están realizando una Campaña por la Justicia de las Remesas.

Luis Martínez y Carlos Jiménez hicieron una exposición en el parque de San Pedro Sula, donde dijeron que las grandes firmas remesadoras son las que sacan las mayores ganancias con el movimiento de transferencias.

Original Article available at:

Toronto Star: Immigrants gouged on money transfers

They fought to get their landlords to clean up their cockroach-infested apartments and won. They fought to get payday lenders to lower their astronomical borrowing rates and won. Now ACORN Canada, a network of low-income Canadians, is embarking on its most ambitious project.

It has just launched a campaign to get North American banks to reduce the “predatory” fees they charge immigrants and migrant workers to transfer money to their families back home.

ACORN made its first move Monday. It released a report showing the rates charged by Canada’s chartered banks, their American counterparts and two money-transfer companies to send $100 to various destinations.

The figures were startling. Fees ranged from $3.70 to $66.25 (not including the pickup charges usually imposed at the receiving end).

Here is a sample, using a transfer of $100 from Toronto to Mexico:

MoneyGram, which has the lowest fees, charges between $3 and $10 (depending on the service and destination) plus an exchange rate fee of 70 cents for a maximum total of $10.70.

TD Canada Trust charges $35.91 for the same service.

None of the other Canadian banks lists its exchange rate fee, making comparisons difficult. They divulge only their transfer fees, which range from $10 at Scotiabank to $25 at BMO. (CIBC refuses to provide any information.)

The most expensive Canadian option is HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation), which charges $25 to $30 for the transfer, tacks on a commission of $10 and adds an exchange rate fee of $10.84 for a maximum total of $50.84.


In the United States, Bank of America tops the list. It charges $56.25 to $66.25 to send $100 from New Orleans to Mexico.

“These rates are predatory,” said Kay Bisnath of Scarborough, who serves as president of ACORN International. “Thousands of our members in Canada are affected.”

The Canadian Bankers Association defends its members’ remittance fees, pointing out that international transfers are complex and there are plenty of choices.

“Consumers are well served by this competition as they are able to choose a remittance service that best meets their needs and fits their budget,” said vice-president Nancy Fung.

To put Canada’s rates in context, the World Bank estimates the average global cost of transferring money between countries is 10 per cent of the amount sent. It has asked rich countries to reduce their rates to 5 per cent by 2014.

Ottawa has agreed in principle. But no Canadian bank is close to the current average, let alone the new target. And there’s no sign of action in Ottawa.

Remittances are a lucrative business. Immigrants and guest workers around the world send more than $400 billion back home every year. Canada’s share of the pie is roughly $15 billion.

Very little is known about these financial flows.

The government doesn’t regulate transfer charges. The banks charge whatever the market will bear. And immigrants rely on word of mouth to find out about hidden fees (for “communication” and “processing”) and costs on the other end.


ACORN used the personal experience of its members plus the legwork of four interns from George Brown College to compile its report. It doesn’t claim its survey is authoritative.

But it does argue there is enough evidence of exploitation to warrant government scrutiny and fee caps. “It is our hope to make it harder and harder for politicians and financiers to ignore the call for change and the demand for a fair and just remittance system.”

A delegation of ACORN members visited the head of TD Canada Trust this week to deliver its report and request a meeting.

They intend to approach all of Canada’s banks, federal financial regulators and provincial consumer protection authorities.

They don’t have much power or prominence. But they’ve swayed giants before.

Report: Past Time for Remittance Justice

Gendering remittance policies

November 5, 2010

voices on international law, policy, practice

The International Organization for Migration has released a report examining the gender dimensions of remittances. Drawing on several studies of gender differences in patterns of sending and receiving remittances, the report suggests strategies for helping women on both ends of the remittance chain to ensure that they and their families can maximize the benefits of these money flows. As the report recognizes, remittances are the second largest source of external funding for developing nations, and thus an important tool in poverty reduction and local development; understanding the gender dimensions of these flows is vital to achieving these goals.

The report lays out several interesting findings. While female and male migrants send approximately the same amount of remittances, women tend to send a higher proportion of their income and over longer periods of time. Women also send money more regularly, which means that they may be more significantly harmed by high transfer fees.

While male migrants largely send remittances to their spouse, female migrants send money to the person, often also female, who cares for their children. Women also tend to take more responsibility for money transfers to extended family members. Because of this sense of familial responsibility and due to traditional gender roles, female migrants may face particular pressure to remit much of their earnings. As a result, they may accept very challenging living and working conditions.

The constraint of gender roles from home may be compounded by a lack of legal status in the destination country. Women without lawful means of migration may have to rely on smugglers simply to enter that country. They may then be forced to spend much of their earnings repaying debt. Once they arrive, female migrants are often restricted to low-skilled jobs in domestic work, agriculture, hotel and catering, and sex work. Women in these fields face significant challenges, including low pay and withheld wages, which makes them even more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation — particularly if they are under pressure to remit. Women in these sectors also face barriers to formal remittance channels both because of a lack of lawful status and because they may be isolated in their workplace and accommodation. These challenges faced by female migrants are not new to readers of this blog, but it is important to note that they affect not only the human rights of these migrants but also the development goals of their home countries.

In the home country, women are often recipients of remittances. In some countries, women are empowered to manage these funds, while in others, male relatives control the use of remittances. In the latter case, women and children become more vulnerable to poverty and sexual abuse from their family and from the broader community. From a policy perspective, it is important to ensure that women are direct recipients of remittances in order to increase economic empowerment. Moreover, programs should focus on making investment options more accessible to female remittance recipients, who may have limited access to credit and financial literacy.

Haiti Remittances Key to Earthquake Recovery

17 May 2010 Comments: 0

From the World Bank News and Broadcast
* Remittances expected to surge by 20% in 2010, yielding an extra $360 million.
* Haitians with “temporary protective status” in the United States are a main source of support.
* Diaspora bonds proposed to assist in Haiti’s long-term development.

May 17, 2010 –Yolene Henry lost three cousins in Haiti’s devastating earthquake. Her niece was pulled from the rubble and needed medical treatment. Her mother, brother and his family were sleeping outside their damaged home in tents.

Henry responded like many others in the 1 million-plus Haitian diaspora: She increased the amount of money she sent to her relatives in Haiti.

“Now I also support extended family members and acquaintances who lost their property,” says the Washing­ton, D.C. area resident.

Remittances are expected to surge 20% in 2010 in a country where they normally make up more than a quarter—and maybe half—of the national income, says World Bank economist and remittances expert Dilip Ratha.

While a rise in remittances has occurred after other disasters, Haiti represents the first time the restoration of remittances services was seen as a critical part of disaster relief and response, says Ratha.

Now, Ratha and others in the international community wonder how big a role the large and relatively wealthy Haitian diaspora in the United States, Canada, France and other countries will continue to play in Haiti’s recovery.

$360 Million Increase Expected

The expected 20% bump in remittances in 2010 will amount to an extra $360 million above normal remit­tances levels, according to World Bank’s Outlook for Remittance Flows 2010-11 (pdf). The diaspora officially sent $1.4 billion in remittances to Haiti in 2008, and unofficially may have sent as much as $2 billion.

Much of the increase this year will likely come from 200,000 undocumented workers granted “temporary pro­tective status” to live and work legally in the United States for 18 months, says the report.

If the temporary protective status is extended another 18 months, additional flows to Haiti could exceed $1 bil­lion over three years, the report adds.

“Financial help in the form of remittances from family members is always the first to arrive in times of dis­tress,” says Ratha.

“When the systems and infrastructure are completely broken and institutions are not working because of the earthquake, at that time quick relief and relief that has impact has to be provided at an individual level, and remittances do that.”

‘People to People’ Assistance Helps Rebuild Lives

Such “people to people” assistance is increasingly recognized as an important factor in rebuilding lives and livelihoods after a disaster, partly because it is at the grassroots level, and it is given to individuals by people they know, says Saroj Kumar Jha, program manager of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recov­ery at the World Bank.

For instance, Dr. Magalie Emile, Chair of Board of Directors for the Association of Haitian Professionals in the United States, said she was inspired to help a small business owner while visiting relatives in Haiti in March.

“That’s just one option for the diaspora – to reach out to local merchants and local business owners and lend that support,’ she says. “It may be something as easy as buying a $200 computer to help someone sustain a business. But you’re not going to know this if you don’t travel home.”

Diaspora Bond Proposed

With an eye toward capturing that kind of support, Ratha, who works in the Bank’s research group, has pro­posed Haiti issue reconstruction diaspora bonds to tap the wealth of the diaspora.

This group would likely be more willing than typical foreign investors to lend money to Haiti at a cheap rate, thereby making socially relevant projects that offer a lower rate of return more affordable, he says.

In the past diaspora bonds have been used by Israel and India to raise over $35 billion in development financing. Several countries—including Ethiopia, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka—are con­sidering (or have issued) diaspora bonds recently to bridge financing gaps.

“Not only Haitians abroad, but also foreign individuals interested in helping Haiti, even charitable institutions, are likely to be interested in these bonds,” says Ratha.

Offering a reasonable interest rate—a 5% tax-free dollar interest rate, for example—could attract a large num­ber of Haitian investors who are getting close to zero interest rate on their deposits. The bonds should also be implemented by a credible organization overseen by international agencies or observers, he adds.

Ratha says a diaspora bond sale could raise $200 million if 200,000 Haitians in the United States, Canada and France were to invest $1,000 each, and much higher amounts could be raised if bonds were open to friends of Haiti and guaranteed by multilateral or bilateral donors.

The idea has sparked interest in the international community, though some of the initial enthusiasm for it subsided as nations stepped forward to pledge billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Haiti, Ratha says.

Fifty countries pledged $5.3 billion for Haiti in the next three years, and as much as $9 billion in the next decade. But the country will need more than that in the long term, and diaspora assistance brings other ben­efits, such as reconnecting family and friends from afar, says Jha.

“I think the fundamental point about remittances managed through a diaspora bond will essentially be the people-to-people connection. It’s not a donor-beneficiary connection here. It’s more a connection between two individuals, two families, two people who share common cultural backgrounds, a common way of life, and a common identity.”

“I think if we try this for Haiti and it works, one could really then make diaspora bonds integral to any recon­struction effort in future.”„contentMDK:22582923~pagePK:64257043~piPK:437376~theSitePK:4607,00.html

Release: ACORN International Releases Report on Remittance Costs

Today, Kay Bisnath, President of ACORN International, released Past Time for Remittance Justice, a report on the scandalous and predatory costs being forced on immigrant families sending remittances to relatives in their home countries.  The report included a survey of charges attached to remittances by Canadian and American global banking institutions, including Scotiabank, RBC, BMO, and Toronto Dominion among others, as well as the global financial transfer organizations, Western Union and MoneyGram.

ACORN Canada with ACORN International called for transparency on costs, greater regulation by Canadian and other governmental banking authorizes, and a hard commitment to the World Bank goal of no more than 5% costs for remittance transfers.  Among the bombshells released in the report, the Toronto based research team largely from George Brown College coupled with ACORN International leaders and organizers from other countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, found that the average costs for Canadian and other North American institutions were more than twice the global average of 10% costs which is the current working estimate of the World Bank.

The North American survey of “sending” institutions found the lowest costs were the transfer organizations, MoneyGram and Western Union with charges running between 17% and 21% in Canadian dollars to transfer $100 CN up to a high of between 40 and 50% charges on $100 CN from HSBC, 32 to almost 36% per $100 CN from Toronto Dominion, more than 25% from the Bank of Montreal and others.   Bank of America headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina in the United States was the worst of all surveyed.

ACORN International has issued sent a letter to all of the financial institutions surveyed to ask for a meeting to discuss making immediate and significant changes to enable immigrants to win just and fair remittance charges.   ACORN Canada representatives indicated that they would be asking for meetings with regulators in Ottawa and at the provincial levels where appropriate in order to make sure there were real teeth in the regulations and mandatory cost reductions and access improvements.

The World Bank estimates that more than $400 Billion (USD) is remitted with 75% of this amount going from developed to developing countries.  This amount far surpasses the cumulative totals in foreign aid and other developmental assistance from developed countries to developing lands.  Not only, as ACORN International’s report says, is this a “lifeline” for families, but it is the most significant source for economic development on a global level, but as the report indicates huge amounts are being lost in arbitrarily inflated and predatory pricing by huge global financial institutions.

ACORN International in coming weeks is releasing the report in the other countries where there are federated organizations (Peru, Argentina, Mexico, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Kenya, and India, as well as the United States, Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, and other global financial centers).  The Canadian release in conjunction with ACORN Canada, the largest affiliate and partner of ACORN International, signals a new and more aggressive stage of the long term Remittance Justice Campaign.


Wade Rathke –

Backgrounder on Remittance Landscape

ACORN International Report on the Global Remittance Market Report on Remittances

Intro to the Campaign for Remittance Justice

In June 2009 the board of ACORN International following a meeting in Santiago, Dominican Republic, and representing all of the federated countries of the organization called for a global effort to engage financial institutions and money transfer companies in order to win fair pricing for transfers of funds from migrant workers and immigrant families in North America to their families in their home countries in Latin America, India, Africa, and Asia.  In actions in the summer of 2009 members in Tijuana, Buenos Aires, Delhi, Mumbai, Lima, and Toronto all took action on various banking institutions to present these demands.

To date the only positive response, though not completely satisfactory, was from Scotiabank in reaction to the efforts of ACORN Canada as part of this campaign.  They agreed to lower the remittance charges and clarify other policies in line with ACORN International’s recommended “best practices.”  Most of the other institutions ignored the demands and continued, and in some cases accelerated, their predatory practices.  The federated board meeting in Lima, Peru in the spring of 2010 renewed their commitment to redouble the organizations efforts to bring the fight for remittance justice more aggressively in all of our countries.

To this end over the last six months of 2010 a team of researchers from Toronto, Baltimore, Vancouver, and Little Rock as well, as from all of the federated countries within ACORN International, has been assembled composed of activists, student interns, and retired academics and organizers.  In a global release in early December ACORN International share the results of its “comparison shopping” both from sending countries in Canada and the United States as well as receiving countries where ACORN International is organizing.  The results will speak loudly for themselves, but show a stark pattern of predatory pricing on both ends of the exchange that has been tragically ignored by regulators of financial practices on either the domestic side or internationally, leaving migrant and immigrant families little choice but to pay the piper even when it means seeing such vital resources skimmed of 20 to 30% off the top before being available to desperate families.

ACORN International is embarking on a full-scale campaign demanding that remittance based costs be reduced to reasonable levels reflecting the real investments in technology and security.  Currently, many institutions are ripping off immigrant and migrant families simply because they can get away with it.  We are demanding that a stop be put to such practices and reforms be implemented immediately.
This a an estimated $300 Billion market, but too much of the money is being diverted from productive uses to pad the balance sheets of rich institutions rather than being allowed to build citizen wealth and income security with families and even national economies dependent on these resources.   As more details of ACORN International’s Remittance Justice Campaign are made public, we will be demanding direct meetings with these institutions in order to demand change and reforms.

Worldwide remittance flows to developing countries