With a continuous stream of migrants into the country due to the ongoing conflict in Syria and other conflicts around the world, German authorities are now planning on implementing a new law forcing banks to provide homeless people and asylum seekers with access to basic accounts. With Germany expecting up to 1.5 million asylum seekers in 2015 alone, the new law would have a significant impact on financial inclusion for these disadvantaged demographics.
Commenting on the importance of the law, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said,
“Those who don’t have a bank account, don’t have good prospects on the labour market. Hunting for a flat is also a problem for many people without an account.”
Across Europe, obtaining a bank account as a non-EU citizen is difficult and while regulators and new entrants into the retail banking space are moving to improve the situation, there are still strict anti-money laundry and anti-terrorist financing controls and so it will be interesting to see how Germany balances the need to provide bank accounts to migrants who may or may not have identity documents with the need to meet the strict regulatory requirements.
Overview by Tristan Hugo-Webb, Associate Director, Global Payments Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group
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