Migrant workers start queuing at night to transfer money overseas

It’s a scene that is becoming recurrent every Saturday night. A few metres away from the Bank of Mauritius building, in the heart of the financial quarters of the city of Port Louis, migrant workers can be seen sleeping rough on the pavement, in front of money transfer offices. No, they are not homeless, nor are they protesting. They simply sleep there in order to be among the first to reach the counters when the office opens in the morning.


After a hard week’s toil, many migrant workers are free only on Sunday. But instead of using this day for leisure or for resting, as most of us do, these poor workers have to queue up the whole day in order to be able to send money to their homeland.  There are very few means available to transfer money to their country: Western Union, MoneyGram, Ria are the main avenues for them. These companies open their offices on Sunday till noon but with the thousands of workers who use their services, not all of them succeed in reaching the counters before closing time, after queuing since early morning for almost half a day.

This is why many workers sleep in front of the offices.  The authorities are aware of the situation, the police is aware as a police patrol vehicle is seen on this street every Saturday night. But noone has reacted to find a solution to their woes.

The workers themselves have made the following proposals: Why not open these offices in the evenings? Why not ask them to open a branch in the industrial zones where they work and live, such as Phoenix or La Tour Koenig? Why doesn’t Mauritius have other money transfer services apart from these three? Opening up the market will bring competition and service improvement.


The workers relate that often they fail to reach the counter by closing time and then they have to come again the next week. Also, sometimes at the counter the officer asks for so much documents or details that the worker is unable to transfer money and has to come again. Worse, some banks impose a limit, which means they have to transfer money to their families in two or three instalments, which in turn means sacrificing three Sundays… “We have to work six days a week, we do a lot of overtime, so it is impossible to transfer money to our family during weekdays. We can only do so on Sunday, but there are always huge crowds on Sundays. Sometimes we have to spend two or three Sundays just to send money back home. It is a nightmare. We hope the government will find a solution for us,” claim the migrant workers.

At the beginning of the month, Mauritius observed the Remembrance Day of the arrival of Indentured labourers and reflected on their plight, their miseries and their sacrifice… Today, migrant workers are still suffering but society and the authorities turn a blind eye. Mauritius badly needs foreign workers to achieve its economic growth, but we seem to be interested in their cheap labour only and not in their welfare.

The irony is that Mauritius promotes itself as an international financial centre with a robust and modern banking system. But foreign workers are being made to sleep on the street in order to transfer money… It’s time for change, as rightly said by BA Exchange signboard..







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