SRDF Press Release
Somalilandsun – A group of more than 40 charities led by British Somalis based in the UK have today written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to help save a crucial lifeline to one of the poorest countries in the world.
Remittances play a critical role in supporting the recovery and re-development of Somalia. Globally it is estimated that around $1.3 billion is sent in remittances by the Somali diaspora to the country every year, which is significantly more than the combined international humanitarian aid budget for the country.
They fear that the decision made by Barclays Bank executives in London to close the business accounts of over 80 money service businesses (MSBs) would be a national and regional disaster for Somalia and would undoubtedly escalate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country. At present 4 million children across Somalia are without education services. Most of the schools and health care services rely heavily on money being sent from diaspora members. Statistics show that 60% of the annual income of a family in Somalia is through money service transfers, thus the effects of this being taken away would be devastating
The coalition of 41 charities led by British Somalis is calling on Barclays to extend the deadline set for the closure of the accounts. They also urge the British Government to support the commitments they made at the London Somalia Conference in May and find a solution – before the deadline set by Barclays – which is reasonable and fair for banks, MSBs, humanitarian NGOs and most importantly the Somali people; so that Somalia can look to the future with the support of their families and loved ones here in the UK.
“We call on the Government to act decisively and expeditiously if it is to avoid yet another humanitarian crisis in Somalia. The deadline set by Barclays is fast approaching. The Prime Minister must encourage Barclays to extend the deadline for closing the accounts of Somali MSBs by 12 months whilst we look at working together to ensure a lasting solution can be identified”, said Mukthar Behi, Chairman, Somali Relief and Development Forum.
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The Somali Relief and Development Forum is an umbrella organisation supporting Somali-led charities registered in the UK. We work through our membership organisations to provide a platform for relief and development projects and advocacy.
There are up to 300,000 Somalis living in the UK – the largest expatriate Somali community outside of the Horn of Africa. In February this year, Foreign Secretary William Hague gave a stark reminder of the great reliance Somalia has on overseas remittances: “Somalis worldwide provide more than $1 billion in remittances back to Somalia each year – more than the international community provides in aid,” he said. “We want to see a Somalia that is stable, where the basic needs of its population are met, and that is able to begin to build its economy and its future.”
On 16 September, the British Government is hosting a meeting to discuss about the effects of Barclays’ decision on remittances. It will chaired by Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for International Development.
On 16 September, the European Union (EU) and Somalia will also be co-hosting a High Level Conference on “A New Deal for Somalia” in Brussels. The Conference’s underlying objective is to sustain the positive momentum in Somalia, to ensure that the country stays on the path to stability, peace and brings prosperity to its people.
On 8 May Barclays announced it was removing banking services from 80 money service businesses in the UK.
On 27 June, Somali President, H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, issued a plea to find a way forward and for Barclays Bank to retain the service whilst working together with the Somali and UK Governments to remain compliant in monitoring transfer funds and improving procedures that tackle financial crime, a stated commitment of the new Federal Government of Somali.
On 27 August, Rushanara Ali MP led a delegation that delivered a petition with 25,500 signatures to 10 Downing Street calling on the Prime Minister to throw a lifeline to families in developing countries by taking urgent action on this issue. The petition was signed and endorsed by Mo Farah, and was delivered by MPs and chief executives of money-transfer companies, campaigners and hundreds of activists on the day.
On 9 September, eight aid agencies called on Barclays Bank to scrap plans to sever money transfer accounts. They include Oxfam, Care International and WorldVision.
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