Dr Bilesha Weeraratne Shares Insights on Informal Remittances Tied to Human Trafficking at Technical Experts Meeting on Following the Money from Trafficking in Persons

4 – 5 June 2024

IPS Research Fellow Dr Bilesha Weeraratne revealed key insights on informal remittances and labour exploitation tied to irregular migration and the trafficking or smuggling of people, at the recent Technical Experts Meeting on Following the Money from Trafficking in Persons, held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In her presentation, Dr Weeraratne pointed out that recent estimates show that globally, 21 million people faced forced labour and extreme exploitation related to human trafficking, generating an estimated USD 150 billion annually in profits in 2017. She revealed that this issue had also caused the rise of a shadow banking system that facilitates human trafficking activities, and these financial
intermediaries operate outside the traditional banking regulations.

One of the leading proponents of the shadow banking system is informal remittances, such as the hawala system, which has evolved to adopt modern technology, including mobile money transfers, cryptocurrencies, and crypto assets. Dr Weeraratne recommended tracking informal remittances through Anti-Money Laundering (AML) indicators such as frequency, geography, sender, and recipient.

The session was organised by the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process, the ASEAN–Australia Counter Trafficking programme (ASEAN-ACT), and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized
Crime (GI-TOC).