How Finland is Using Blockchain Technology to Help Unbanked Asylum Seekers

How Finland is Using Blockchain Technology to Help Unbanked Asylum Seekers

By Rebecca Campbell - min read
Updated 22 May 2020

Nations around the world are witnessing an influx in refugee numbers. Yet, while countless individuals are keen to re-establish themselves in a new country it’s often easier said than done. For many proving who exactly they are is one of the challenges they face.

In Finland, though, they are using blockchain technology to aid unbanked asylum seekers to enter the digital economy.

As reported by the MIT Technology Review, the Finnish Immigration Service has been providing refugees with prepaid Mastercards for two years instead of cash. Created by Helsinki-based startup MONI, the program now has several thousand active cardholders. Thus, those seeking to reclaim their identity now have a unique digital identity that is stored on blockchains.

Antti Pennanen, MONI CEO, said: “Our purpose has always been financial inclusion, and especially to help people in developing countries.”

The blockchain is widely being seen as a beneficial instrument that can open up doors for people who are financially excluded. According to Jouko Salonen, director of the Finnish Immigration Service, the MONI card is solving a number of issues that refugees face. Namely, that it acts like a bank account. Users can also pay bills with it and receive direct deposits. Through the technology, asylum seekers are able to establish an identity, which is helping them to advance.

Salonen added: “We have found a way to solve that.”

In turn, MONI is providing the Finnish Immigration Service with information on how cardholders are spending their money.

The use of blockchain technology to aid refugees in Finland is just one example of how the technology is being implemented to give the disenfranchised a step up into the financial world.

In addition to MONI, there are other initiatives being put into place that are attempting to use blockchain technology to help people. The European Parliament is one such example. A public document released at the end of August shows that a task force is being established to see how a blockchain can be used to identify refugees.
Approved by EU lawmakers last year, it shows that out of the €850,000 set aside for the project in the 2017 budget, €425,000 has been spent.

Remarks appear to be from Jakob von Weizsäcker, the MEP who initially proposed the task force. The document states:

“Many refugees, and people in refugee-like situations, are unable to prove their identity or access essential services. They do not have the necessary documentation, many refugees are unable to access healthcare, seek legal protection, or enroll their children in schools.”

It adds that at a time when countries are experiencing an increasing flow of migrants, countries need innovative solutions to manage the numbers.

“DLT applications could lend themselves to such applications on account of their distributed and resilient architecture.”