Red tape forces Barclays to stop UK Somali workers sending cash home

Simon Read@simonnread
Tuesday 25 June 2013 02:06

Worldwide pressure is growing on governments to find a solution to the withdrawal of banking to money service companies, which is hitting hard-pressed communities in Somalia.

The businesses allow people to send money across the world, and can be crucial in letting migrant workers send their wages back to families abroad.

But the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency has identified money service businesses as a potential money laundering risk and – after HSBC was fined $1.9bn (£648m) for poor money laundering controls last year – international banks have been tightening rules.In the process, they've been accused of putting at risk what humanitarian campaigners describe as a "crucial" financial lifeline. Soon-to-be-published research by Oxfam and Adeso estimates that Somali migrants in the UK could send home as much as £100m a year, with most of the money used to cover basic expenses such as food, school fees and medical costs.

Last year Sunrise Community Banks in Minnesota was hit by protests after it said it would halt the money transfers to comply with US laws on financing terror groups.

Now Barclays has been targeted by Somali campaigners after it gave 60 days' notice to most of the money service companies that use its accounts.

The Somali Money Services Association claimed the move will "have dire consequences in Somalia, where no alternatives to the money service businesses exist".

But Barclays said it has no option. "Some money service businesses don't have the proper checks in place to spot criminal activity and could therefore unwittingly be facilitating money laundering and terrorist financing," it added.

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