Financial Inclusion And Exclusion Of Ethnic Minorities
Two testimonies on obstacles faced by ethnic minorities when accessing banking services.
Coring Delos Reyes from United Migrant Domestic Workers in The Netherlands gives her testimony on the obstacles she faced because of her legal status when trying to access banking services, whereas the Traveller Money Advice and Budgeting Service in Ireland presents a case study on obstacles for people who do not have a registered postal address.
Obstacles relating to legal status: a testimony by Coring Delos Reyes, United Migrant Domestic Workers in The Netherlands (UMDW NL). I am Coring Delos Reyes from the Philippines and currently residing in the Netherlands. Since I came here in 1997 I have been working as a domestic worker in Amsterdam. Because of our status as undocumented workers it was so difficult for us domestic workers to have our own bank account. I tried to open one for myself but the bank asked for my legal identity. Unfortunately, I only have my passport but the bank asked me for my social security number which was a problem.
I became involved in a group of migrant domestic workers and also connected to different NGOs which support undocumented migrants. In 2002 I became a member of a cooperative that helps undocumented migrants access a small amount of money, who then pay an equivalent interest per month. Every month we lend money to our members and also collect their monthly interest. We tried once again to open our own bank account but our organisation was not registered so we used another organisation’s bank account to put our money in a safe place instead of always bringing our cash money.
United Migrant Workers
In 2006 I formed another group of domestic workers and we named it United Migrant Domestic Workers in the Netherlands (UMDW NL).We are active as domestic workers fighting for our workers rights and linking migration and development. We decided to invest in the Microfinance Institution in the Philippines and one of the requirements was to have our own bank account. This time, with the support of the Microfinance Institution, we opened a bank account in our country of origin on which we receive yearly interest. Since 2008 I now receive a yearly interest - this year amounting to 1,000 euro - that goes directly to my bank in my home country.
I also encountered a problem when somebody snatched my bag on my way to work and stole all the money that I had earned in the last two weeks. If only I had my own bank account here, my money would have been safe. I would also be able to buy a cell phone and pay my monthly instalment. I also have problems with regard to housing because the landlords usually ask for a bank account and I cannot give them one. Our organization UMDW currently has Organizational Funds, Emergency Funds and Sport Funds but we are using another account in order to be sure that our money is safe, for the benefits of our members. With the Emergency Fund for instance, every member can access a small amount of money when they get sick or when they are deported.
The National Traveller Money Advice and Budgeting Service (NTMABS), a leading advocate for the financial inclusion of Travellers in society, has been successfully providing a valuable service to Travellers, Traveller organisations and MABS both at local and national level since 2005. As the only government funded, minority specific service in the state, NTMABS addresses the issues of financial exclusion and works towards empowering the Traveller community in Ireland in accessing legal and affordable savings and credit.
The main focus of National Traveller MABS is to support Travellers through education, capacity building, policy and research. As a national organisation we work closely with MABS and the Traveller community at local level while at the same time we press for change at a national level through policy and research.
There are over 30,000 Travellers living in Ireland
- Forming the largest indigenous minority in the country. Recent equality legislation has recognised the Community to be one of the most excluded and marginalised groups in Irish society
- While it is difficult to ascertain the extent and nature of personal over-indebtedness within the Traveller community, as Travellers as a community are not covered by the National Household Surveys carried out by the Central Statistics Office (CSO)
- It is likely that Travellers are at higher risk of over-indebtedness to illegal money lenders due to the difficulty many face in accessing legal and affordable savings and credit.
Over the past number of years, NTMABS has gathered extensive information on the issues prevalent for Travellers in Ireland. We have made numerous submissions to the Irish Bankers Federation, the Financial Regulator and the Department of Finance on the issue of financial exclusion. We have compiled a portfolio of case histories of individuals excluded from mainstream financial services. One such case has come to our attention this year. It concerns a young Traveller man who we will refer to as Mr. X.
Obstacles Relating to Lack of Fixed Address
Mr. X denied credit union account: case study by the NTMABS in Ireland
Mr. X made contact with National Traveller MABS (NTMABS) in January 2011. He wanted to open an account with his local Credit Union (CU). He was and still is working as a volunteer with a Traveller organisation and has been living in his area for over 18 years. He has been living for 10 years in a halting site with his family and is the official named tenant in the bay where he lives. X has a passport, a license agreement from the council (tenancy agreement), social welfare card, birth certificate, medical certificates, letters of support from where he works and In relation to identification requirements, Mr. also a letter from NTMABS.
Unfortunately, there is no postal delivery where Mr. X resides. Residents collect their post from the local post office. All post for residents living at this site has to be addressed to ‘c/o’ the post office, as opposed to the person’s address. Contact was made by NTMABS with the General Post Office to confirm this - it was confirmed.
Contact was made with the CU by NTMABS - we listed off the above details to a staff member and we were informed that Mr. X would also need two passport photos. The staff member also confirmed that this would be sufficient. Mr. X agreed to get these and go to the CU to open an account.
By the end of January, Mr. X had sent all details but he had heard nothing from the CU. NTMABS contacted the CU and were informed that there is an approximate 3-week backlog for membership applications.
There was no contact by the CU with MR X in February or March. NTMABS contacted the CU. The CU stated that Mr. X’s account was not opened as he did not have adequate proof of address. He was told by the membership committee to have two letters posted to him, one by the council and one from the Department of Social Protection stating his Personal Public Service number. NTMABS agreed to call the membership committee to discuss this.
The staff member we spoke to was aware of Mr. X’s case and acknowledged the length of time it was taking. He expressed his concern over it. The staff member also acknowledged that the client had given everything that was asked of him but he did question the issue of post not being delivered, therefore, no utility bill etc. It was agreed that a member of the membership committee would contact NTMABS to discuss the matter further.
The Membership Co-ordinator in the CU contacted NTMABS and was very adamant that Mr. X was informed that he would need proof of address by the means of a posted letter. NTMABS explained that letters are not delivered to the halting site. The Co-ordinator stated that this was not his issue and that they have guidelines for new members and they have to stick with them. When NTMABS informed the co-ordinator that we had been previously been informed that the ID that Mr. X had was sufficient, we were informed that the person who had given this information was not a member of the membership committee.
NTMABS spoke to Mr. X. He agreed to try and get a letter from council posted to him with his address on it and not ‘c/o’ the local Post Office. NTMABS also requested that the Department of Social protection send an entitlement statement to client at his home address.
Mr. X has stopped pursuing the CU for membership. He has however agreed that NTMABS can continue with this case. NTMABS is seeking legal advice from the Irish Traveller Movements legal unit.
 All Ireland Traveller Health Study; School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University College Dublin; 2010
 The fact the Equal Status Acts 2000 and 2004 prohibit discrimination on nine grounds, one of the grounds being membership of the Traveller community, is evidence of the marginalisation and exclusion Travellers face in society.
 E.g. The Annual Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC). Annual survey conducted by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to obtain information on the income and living conditions of different types of households. The survey also collects information on poverty and social exclusion.