US money laundering laws, banking decisions hurting Somalis

The Standard, 1 August 2013

A Sh113 billion ($1.3 billion) per year stream of cash that the people of Somalia depend on for food, shelter, and other necessities is under threat according to a new report from Adeso, the Inter-American Dialogue, and Oxfam released today.

Fear of US anti-terror and money laundering laws is leading banks to close critically needed bank accounts of US-based money transfer operators. Used for urgently needed remittances, these accounts are sometimes closed in indiscriminate fashion. With lack of a formal banking system in Somalia, families now face the possibility of being unable to access funds from friends and relatives that they desperately require for survival.  

More money in remittances is sent back than Somalia receives in humanitarian assistance, development assistance and foreign direct investment combined. Somalis based in the US send Sh18.7 billion ($214m) each year back to their families in Somalia, nearly the same amount the US sends in foreign assistance to Somalia ($242m).

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