Somali campaigners call for Barclays back-pedal

Somali campaigners outside Barclays HQ in London

I was on my bike very early this morning to join a group of Somali campaigners who are calling on Barclays to keep open the cash lifeline to Somalia. 

Every year Somali migrants send around $1.3 billion dollars to friends and families at home and over £100 million of this comes from the UK. This money simply dwarfs the amount of humanitarian aid governments send to the country and is vital for families in Somalia who rely on this income to cover basic costs like food, water, education and healthcare. 

African Development Solutions (Adeso) who are working with Oxfam on this issue emphasise that the last thing anyone wants in Somalia is a deterioration of the humanitarian situation or a return to famine, simply because the UK government and banks are unable to find a solution to solve the current perceived risk of working with money transfer organizations.

So it has obviously come as a serious blow to Somali communities in the UK to find that it will become very difficult, and expensive, for them to get money to their loved ones in the near future. As banks become increasingly risk averse due to counter-terrorism legislation, the accounts of money transfer organisations that transfer these funds to Somalia have been closed down. 

Two weeks ago Barclays closed all but one of these accounts, with the remaining one today seeking a court injunction to prevent the bank from shutting it down. 

In response, campaigners got on the saddle of London’s famous ‘Boris bikes’ sponsored by Barclays to get the message to the bank that the most vulnerable should not be made to suffer while government, regulators and banks get a workable solution in place. They brought  with them bags of fake cash to illustrate the money that they will no longer be able to send to those who urgently need it back home. 

One of these campaigners is Farhan Hassan who says that the the account closures mean that his 80 year old mother-in-law wont get the money she relies on for things like food, rent and healthcare. Farhan started a petition that has the support of gold-winning Olympic champion Mo Farah and has garnered over 100,000 signatures. 

Although the British Government has, at the last minute, announced a raft of measures to clarify regulation and respond to banks’ concerns, banks must now take moral responsibility and keep accounts open so that ordinary Somalis do not suffer while these solutions are put in place. 

Today the message was clear: It’s time for Barclays to back-pedal, and fast! Take action on twitter by tweeting @Barclays or click to tweet one of our messages: