News / Africa

US Money Transfers to Somalia at Risk

Internally displaced women wait to receive relief food from a distribution center in Hodon district in the south of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, August 25, 2011 (file photo).
Internally displaced women wait to receive relief food from a distribution center in Hodon district in the south of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, August 25, 2011 (file photo).
William Ide

The international aid organization Oxfam says thousands of Somali families could be cut off from much needed aid if a U.S. bank goes through with plans to discontinue its money-wiring services at the end of this month.

Last week, a small bank in the U.S. state of Minnesota announced it would stop wiring cash to "hawala" money transfer companies in Somalia because it feared the transfers risk violating U.S. counter-terrorism laws.  The laws seek to clamp down on the financing of terror groups.

Shannon Scribner, a humanitarian policy manager at Oxfam, says the support that comes from the bank is crucial and that it is one of the few still offering the service.

"Within Somalia about $100 million in remittances from the U.S. goes to Somalia every year," said Scribner.  "And this money comes from diaspora members, who are Somalis themselves that are living in the United States, extended  families and local charities."

The cut-off comes when more than a 250,000 Somalis are on the brink of starvation because of famine and political violence.  The al-Qaida linked terror group al-Shabab is in a deadly struggle with Somalia's fragile transitional government.

Hawala money transfers rely on an informal system of merchants who send money, for a fee, from one location to another.  Because it is informal, the U.S. and other countries worry the hawala system can be used to funnel cash to terrorist or criminal groups.

Studies that have looked at the remittances say funds from the Somali diaspora benefit as much as 40 percent of households in Somalia.

"The majority of [foreign] aid to Somalia is a fraction of what is needed, and so these remittances are really a lifeline for people in Somalia," added Scribner.

Without remittances, Oxfam warns, many Somalis could be forced by famine to go into refugee camps.

Members of the Somali community in Minnesota have protested the bank's decision, but a December 31 deadline to terminate the services is fast approaching.

Oxfam urges the U.S. government, the bank and the networks that handle the funds in Somalia to reach a solution before the deadline.  U.S. lawmakers from Minnesota are working to head off a crisis.

Scribner says the bank, hawala merchants, the Treasury Department and other parts of the U.S. government are discussing ways to solve the problem.  But, she says, it is not clear exactly who needs to approve a measure to allow remittances to continue that doesn't put banks at risk of violating the law.

"We're saying use due diligence, set up a process that is clear, you can vet it properly, but give these banks some reassurances that they are not going to be liable," said Scribner.

The U.S. wants to makes sure money does not go al-Shabab, one of the most dangerous insurgent groups in East Africa.  The group is fighting to overthrow Somalia's transitional government in a bid to impose a strict form of Sharia, or Islamic law.

Just several weeks before the bank announced it would end hawala remittances, two Minnesota women were convicted of conspiracy to provide support to al-Shabab.  In early December, a Somali woman was convicted on similar charges in the city of San Diego, California.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs