Sunday, March 04, 2012

Somalians Urge Banks, Lawmakers to Find Solution

Somalis urge banks, lawmakers to find solution

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Hundreds of Somalis gathered at an Islamic Center in Minneapolis Saturday and urged lawmakers and American banks to help find a solution to the ongoing funds-transfer crisis.

"It's a human rights issue and it's a humanitarian issue," said Abdirahman Muse, who helped to organize Saturday's event. "The lives of 10 million people back in Somalia are on the line."

Somali community leaders say the fight to freely send money back to East Africa continues. Their hope is for banks like Wells Fargo and US Bank to come to the table in search for a resolution.

"Tonight we are trying to raise awareness for this issue," said Muse. "We need the banks to work with us."

US Bank did release a statement regarding the issue:

"We value our relationship with the Twin Cities Somali community. At the request of leaders in that community, we met with them recently to discuss the gap between their existing process and what is required by federal law. If there is a solution, we are committed to helping the Somali community find it, and to working with any MSB (Money Service Business) that can meet all the requirements."

It' a small step towards a solution, in which, Somalis call a crisis.

"My grandmother needs this money and I can afford to send it. Why should I not be able to?" says Warda Geele, a young Somalian woman who lives in St. Paul. "Anywhere to $100 to $150, whatever I can afford I send that much back home."

But for thousands, that process has been anything but easy. The U.S. Government has been concerned that money meant for the famine victims in Somalia could be diverted to terrorist groups like al-Shabab.

In October, two Minnesota women from Somalia were convicted in Federal Court of doing just that.

"The fear is out there but you can control it," said Geele. "You don't have to make hundreds of thousands of people go hungry because of the possibility that this could occur."

Since December, banks in Minnesota stopped allowing "hawalas" to have accounts. The "hawalas" are wire transfer services that need accounts with banks in order to send money overseas.

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