Floral ensemble inspired by the Mastefcard logo. Image by Hans Splinter via flickr.com. License: Creative Commons

After the government agreed in November to introduce so-called payment cards, things are now becoming concrete. This year they want to slow down the flow of refugees through monetary discrimination. Two US payment service providers serve as technical helpers.

The Bitcoin community is happy to work on a possible CBDC, a “Central Bank Digital Currency”, i.e. a digital currency issued by a central bank. Such a CBDC, it is said again and again, is the beginning of the end of all freedom. At conferences there are panels about – or better: against – CBDCs, and politicians who take a clear stance against them, whether the German MP Joana Cotar or Donald Trump, can be sure of the applause of the community.

Well. Now it’s happening, but without a CBDC, and unfortunately also without the protest of the Bitcoin community. While plans for a CBDC in Europe remain as vague as possible, our government has decided to subject almost half a million people in Germany to unprecedented monetary control and discrimination: asylum seekers should no longer benefit from legal tender in the EU come – euro notes – but rather receive the so-called payment card.

The payment card was decided in November 2023. Bavaria and Hesse had slipped massively to the right in the state elections, everyone blamed the refugees as the cause, and Chancellor Scholz and the Prime Ministers decided in an emergency conference to introduce the payment card. This is intended to reduce the administrative burden on municipalities and prevent refugees from using their money in an undesirable way, such as for criminal purposes or as remittances back to their homeland.

Yesterday a working group presented a nationwide uniform concept that was probably liked by all federal states. Starting this summer, municipalities should only transfer aid money to refugees to banks that offer payment cards for refugees. The payment card is a pure debit card without a connected bank account, in the previous pilot projects from MasterCard or Visa. With it, refugees can shop in all stores that accept the terms and conditions and fees of the two US companies.

The federal states should be given the option to blacklist certain businesses or industries or to prevent use outside the federal state or region. In principle, refugees cannot withdraw cash using a payment card, cannot pay abroad and cannot transfer money either within the country or abroad. André Berghegger, general manager of the Association of Cities and Municipalities, also believes that the maps should be expanded “with other information and evidence”. This could amount to identity data.

This means that the fundamental right of all people living in Germany to have a bank account, passed in 2016, is more or less suspended. This is currently about 182 euros pocket money for asylum seekers in asylum homes with food supplies and 410 euros for self-catering people. At least the federal states have the option of continuing to pay out a certain portion of this money in cash as pocket money.

Integration researchers and experts are skeptical. According to them, there is no evidence that asylum seekers have transferred home the social benefits paid to them on a significant scale. Such remittances usually only begin after they have found a job. It is a matter of symbolic politics, they complain, and no expert expects it to have a demonstrable effect on refugee movements. A representative from Pro Asyl called the payment card “clearly a discrimination program.”

Hanover introduced a “SocialCard” back in December. This is a debit card from Visa to which the standard benefits for asylum seekers are paid out, but without the blacklists required for the payment card. In Thuringia, too, there are initial attempts in some districts with a payment card, which, according to a photo, was issued by Mastercard. According to district administrators, they have had good experiences with this. The Thuringian Refugee Council, on the other hand, complains that the card makes it more difficult for refugees to make payments at the hairdresser, in smaller shops and also for the Deutschlandticket.

Of course, it won’t be completely impossible to transfer money to relatives abroad. In the future, refugees will have to buy and send voucher cards in the supermarket. Their relatives can then exchange these on online portals. There will probably also be some kind of black market, such as kiosk owners where you can buy “snacks” with your payment card and then receive cash or foreign transfers. Either way, there are more middlemen involved who become the winner of the payment card through fees.

So far there has been surprisingly little criticism of the payment card among Bitcoiners. In doing so, it realizes exactly the nightmares that people tell so vividly and indignantly about CBDCs, from limiting cash to blacklists and whitelists to forcing one to become dependent on a specific middleman.

Source: https://bitcoinblog.de/2024/02/01/bundesregierung-beschliesst-monetaere-zensur-fuer-fast-500-000-menschen/

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