New Internationalist

The clock is ticking for Somalis’ remittance lifeline

Somali woman and child [Related Image]
Somalia's poor will suffer as a result of Barclays' decision Oxfam East Africa under a Creative Commons Licence

The decision by Barclays Bank to close accounts held by genuine businesses which run a Somali Money Transfer scheme will have a huge impact on the most vulnerable. The finance sector has collapsed in Somalia and the state and society are disintegrating. Poor people have become dependent upon funds from abroad, transferred through the schemes such as the one Barclays is planning to close at the end of September. The loss of these funds will inevitably affect the survival of many.

In today’s world, it has become increasingly difficult to survive without money. Food, water, clothing, shelter, medical attention, education, employment: all are important in all of our lives, and for the provision of most, if not all, of them, we need money. While money may not make you happy, it does provide the fundamental support for living a healthy life in a safe environment.

So why take away funding that people rely on in order to survive? Why is Barclays closing accounts that are the conduit for much-needed funds, relied upon by the underprivileged? Is it a case of taking from the poor to give to the rich?

After the collapse of the banking system in Somalia, the Somali diaspora has spread worldwide. For many years, the diaspora has played a vital role in supporting Somali lives and livelihoods. Under very difficult circumstances, whenever the opportunity arises, the Somali diaspora gives time, knowledge and financial aid to help family and friends back home. It sends over $1 billion a year back to Somalia to people who need it the most. It has been estimated that 40 per cent, if not more, of Somali households depend upon these remittances – to pay school fees, pay for food and water, obtain medical treatment and meet other subsistence needs. According to the latest estimate of the Department for International Development, ‘in Somalia about three million people (over 40 per cent of the population) live in poverty and 2.4 million are currently in need of humanitarian assistance’.

It is evident that with the closure of Barclays’ Somali Money Transfer Operators (MTOs), the displaced and elderly, children and orphans, the sick and disabled will suffer.

There is now great urgency to save and protect millions of vulnerable Somalis from Barclays’ decision. Closing Somali Money Transfer Operators (MTO) accounts without sound facts or providing an alternative is immoral and inexcusable. It is based on fear and panic rather than reasonable judgment or empirical evidence. And it will hinder the efforts of the Somali diaspora, humanitarian aid agencies and the British government to ‘...beat poverty and prevent conflict’.

To help save the much-needed funds for those that need them the most, please sign the petition here and get your colleagues, friends and family to sign as well. The petition is now at over 98,000 signatures.

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