Somalis write to PM after business accounts frozen by Barclays

More than 40 charities led by British Somalis have written to PM David Cameron

The Somali Relief and Development Forum (SRDF) has written a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron in protest over Barclays Bank closure of 80 business accounts belonging to Somalis.

It said such a closure would be a national disaster for Somalia and would escalate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in one of the poorest countries in the world.

It is thought the closure may be linked to concerns over the funding of terrorism in Somalia.

The letter said: “At this extremely difficult time, we are the first to applaud the British Government’s lead in the international effort to stabilise and develop Somalia. All British Somalis acknowledge the commitment that both you and the Foreign Secretary have shown to Somalia and to British Somalis.

“As you are aware, remittances provide an essential lifeline to Somalia. The British Somali Community plays 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 to Somalia every year which is significantly more than the combined international humanitarian aid budget for 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.

British Somalis maintain close links with their homeland
British Somalis maintain close links with their homeland

“For organisations like ours and even for the UN and EU Aid Agencies, these money transfer companies are crucial. They allow us to get money quickly and cheaply to our projects, to pay our staff, and to procure services throughout the country. This situation is particularly pressing in Somalia – indeed there is no other option in a country where there is no functioning banking system. 

“In July, the British Government estimated that remittances account for 50 per cent of Somalia’s gross national income. During the London Somalia Conference which you hosted in London in May – at which £ 180 million in humanitarian and security aid was generously pledged to Somalia – the vital role of remittances was brought to the fore by your statement: “Somalis make a great contribution to our country here in the UK, and their remittances play a valuable role in Somalia”. It could not have been better said and we now call on you to do all you can to avert this impending crisis.

“We request that you and your government call on Barclays to extend the deadline set for the closure of the accounts. We also call on the British Government to support the commitment made in May and work with us to 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 we are to avoid yet another humanitarian crisis in Somalia. The deadline set by Barclays is fast approaching. We call on you to encourage Barclays to extend the deadline for closing the accounts of Somali MSBs by 12 months whilst we all work together to ensure a lasting solution can be identified.

Yours sincerely, 

Mukhtar Bihi

SRDF Chairman

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