Law360, London (May 22, 2020, 3:26 PM BST) -- Britain called on Friday for greater international collaboration to protect the $554 billion in global money transfers sent by migrant workers to developing countries in a year, which has been threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Government ministers said in a joint statement with Switzerland that there must be more investment globally in digital remittance services to shore up an essential lifeline for many in poverty. Remittance providers should also reduce fees on money transfers to reduce the burden on those hit hardest by the crisis, ministers said.
"This will be lifesaving for some families in developing countries where coronavirus is making a lack of food and healthcare and extreme poverty even worse," Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international development secretary, said. "We are helping to prevent fragile economies from facing potential collapse during the pandemic."
The World Bank warned last month that remittances to low- and middle-income countries would probably fall by 20% in 2020, a total of $110 billion from the 2019 total of $554 billion. Remittances from Europe this year are likely to fall 27% — significantly higher than the global average.
The bank attributed the drop to an expected rise in unemployment among migrant workers as a result of the economic crisis, but said remittance channels should remain open despite pandemic lockdowns across the world.
The U.K. government has said migrant workers can continue to visit remittance centers, despite the lockdown, if they observe social distancing rules.
The government said its aid program ensured that 65 million people in developing countries have access to digital remittance services on their mobile phones or online.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, head of the Swiss federal department of foreign affairs, said digital services were crucial in keeping money transfers going.
"Remittances are important, but difficult because of COVID-19," he said. "So let's make sure those barriers are removed worldwide. New technologies can help us here."
--Editing by Ed Harris.
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