We are writing to request that the UK Government works with British banks to find a durable solution to the recent decision of Barclays to close its accounts with Somali Money Service Businesses (MSBs). Some have already been closed. Others are facing closure and uncertain future. With such a short timeframe, and without having provided a comprehensive explanation as to why Barclays wishes to sever its relationships with the MSBs, these companies are understandably finding it very difficult to find new partners to work with.
Now Mo Farah, Team GB’s two-time gold medal-winning runner at the London 2012 Olympic Games, has signed the petition and thrown himself behind the campaign. Like tens of thousands of other British Somalis Mo, who was born in the capital Mogadishu, relies on MSBs to send money back to his family, who use the money to buy basic staples like food. Their livelihoods are now under threat.
Mo’s charity, the Mo Farah Foundation, uses MSBs to transfer cash to some of the people hit hardest by drought in the world.
What is at stake is a lifeline that provides essential support to an estimated 40% of the population of Somalia. Somali MSBs provide fast, reliable and secure transmission of funds from the diaspora (estimated at approximately 1.5 million people) to their relatives at home. In addition, many other diaspora groups from the Horn of Africa – in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan – send remittances to their family members using the same companies. Not only do Somali MSBs provide essential services to the global Somali community, they also make it possible for international humanitarian and development organisations to provide vital support to Somalis in a country that lacks a more formal public banking system and where war and famine are visitors.
We call on the UK Government to:
> Assist the Somali MSBs in finding alternative banking partners, and to assemble the necessary compliance information needed to demonstrate their accountability to new partners
> Request that Barclays extends its termination deadline for at least twelve months for Somali MSBs so that the flow of remittances through licensed companies is not disrupted, and a more durable solution can be found in the meantime
> Convene a series of multi-stakeholder discussions, beyond Whitehall, that will work on developing the enhanced due diligence that the banks seem to require for this sub-sector of MSBs.
If enough people add their name to our petition we'll be able to send a strong message to Barclays to reconsider its hasty decision.
Olympic champion Mo Farah says:
"Cutting this lifeline would be a disaster for millions. The small sums sent home by British Somalis each week enable family members to buy food, medicines and other life essentials.
"I have been sending money home for a number of years and the Mo Farah Foundation, along with some of the world’s biggest international charities and organisations, including the United Nations, rely on these businesses to channel funds and pay local staff.
"Everyone following the issue understands that Barclays has a bank to run, but this decision could mean life or death to millions of Somalis. I’m urging them to grant an extension of at least twelve months to the affected businesses, and for the UK government to work with everyone involved to find a durable solution to the problem."
Already 105 leading academics and practitioners have sent co-signed letter to UK cross-party policymakers.
Please join us and call on UK Government to work with British banks to find a durable solution to the recent decision of Barclays to close its accounts with Somali MSBs.
Together we can make change happen!