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Undocumented Senegambian migrants in Europe face major hurdle

Aug 18, 2017, 11:21 AM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye, The Point’s Europe Correspondent

Undocumented Senegambian migrants are currently facing a major hurdle in Europe, and this time round is how to send cash back home as leading money transfer companies operating in certain European cities swiftly amended operational procedures.

Main International Money transfer companies have ‘’suddenly and unexpectedly’’ changed rules for ‘’senders’’ transferring cash, thus rendering a perilous and precarious situation for such migrants.

Remittance is internationally regarded as one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries such as The Gambia and Senegal and as such appropriate measure to safeguard and protect its operation is widely respected.

However, The Point can confirm that, Western Union and RIA, companies that previously set rules that a ‘’receiver’’ must show documentary evidence of his or her identity, are now equally demanding that a ‘’sender’ must also provide the same evidence.

Questions such as name of sender, country of origin, sum of money and the MTCN, which is a tracking number transmitted to the receiver in order to be able to collect the cash, is still mandatory.

The service enables customers across Europe to transfer money at a convenient time, although some European governments also set limits on how much can be sent or the sum to be received at a particular time.

RIA and Western Union, for example are offering competitive exchange rates thus obtained many loyal Senegambian customers.

Nonetheless, both are now demanding customers sending money to produce a ‘’proof of identity’’ including proof of address before any transaction is allowed.

The companies rightly stressed that any receiver must tender the ‘’PIN number provided’’ and a ‘’valid ID to be shown when at the point of payment...the name on the ID must match that on the money transfer’’.

But the rule that the ‘’sender’’ must provide the same documentary evidence is never heard of before. However it is important to note that such requests are made when sending a large sum and not a small amount.

Most interestingly, though, is the fact that non of the companies have so far issued any information regarding such a drastic change with the exception of a word of mouth from their various agents.

This correspondent trying to verify the reasons behind the new instructions visited four different agents in different locations as well as contacting representatives in disparate locations.

Despite such efforts, it is surprising that some of the agents are not even aware of the current changes until they logged in their computers serving customers.  Automatically it then demanded that senders are now required to produce ID before any transaction is allowed.

Responding to queries about the unexpected changes, and how much it may affect customers, one of the agents slowly responded: ‘’Yes it is true but this is a new rule by the companies...we are just seeing it now...Sorry but ID is now a requirement for senders’’.

The Point also verified that for security reasons, identification documents such as passports are also scanned and stored in computers for any ‘’future transaction’’. Any document with expiry date is also unaccepted.

This major hurdle and setback for undocumented migrants has further frustrated some of them so much that their emotional reaction is increasingly noticed.

For instance when WorldRemit, a leading online remittance provider, ceased providing services to Nigeria, thus suspending operations immediately, many of them turned to Western Union, RIA or MoneyGram.

Even though such a move was described as ‘’draconian and unfair’’, rendering all Nigerian customers the inability to enjoy its services, the suspension continues.

Also this time round, the requirement that a sender ‘’must provide ID’’ may continue despite protests and complaints.

RIA on its part has already noted that ‘’it reserves the right to withdraw or amend its website, and any other service or material...in our sole discretion without notice, except as otherwise required by law...’’.

As customers trying to digest the main cause for such a drastic change, the undocumented migrants’ ambition to send money back home continues to hang in the balance.

Alhagie Mbye, The Point’s Europe Correspondent.