Following Barclays Bank’s decision to terminate its banking facilities for UK money transfer agencies, Rushanara Ali MP, Shadow Minister for International Development, will today deliver a petition to Number 10 Downing Street signed by some 25,500 people calling on the UK Government, Barclays Bank and regulators to take urgent action to save money transfer businesses from going bust.
Rushanara will be accompanied by other MPs, three Chief Executives of Money Transfer Agencies whose businesses are at risk, and three campaigners who have led the way in raising public awareness on this issue.
The ‘Save Remittance Giving Campaign’ to stop Barclays withdrawing from the UK remittance market, led by Rushanara Ali MP, has received local and national endorsement and acclaim – not least from double Olympic Gold medallist, Mo Farah. The 25,500 signatories are calling on Barclays to reconsider its decision as a matter of urgency given the damage it could cause to the struggling UK economy, local businesses and jobs, and millions of people in the developing world.
Mo Farah, a British Olympic hero of Somali origin, has spoken out in support of the campaign calling on the UK Government to help find an urgent solution to this issue. He emphasised the crucial role remittances have played for his family and the Mo Farah Foundation, arguing this was a matter of “life or death” for millions of people in Somalia.
Today he said:
“It is so important that the government and the banks realise the incredibly serious threat this poses, and work with the remittance industry to find a solution. My charity, the Mo Farah Foundation, as well as many other international aid organisations, rely on companies like Dahabshiil and without them will no longer be able to get money to the people who so desperately need it. We are asking the Prime Minister to step in and help to
find a solution. Millions of Somalis as well as people across the developing world depend on it.”
Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and Shadow Minister for International Development, said:
“The UK Government cannot afford to take a back seat on this issue. The closure of these accounts will cause irreparable damage to the livelihoods of millions of people in the African and Indian subcontinents. Somalia, a country that has been blighted by years of conflict, is particularly at risk. Remittances and money transfer agencies were a vital help during the humanitarian disaster of the 2011 Horn of Africa drought. People across the UK and many of my constituents are desperate to get money to their loved ones. Shutting this vital lifeline runs the risk of money being sent through dangerous and alternative methods that are not properly regulated.
“As the deadline for the suspension of these remittance accounts is nearing, it is crucial that the UK Government, Barclays Bank and the regulatory authorities take these matters to hand and make this issue a priority. They have a responsibility to act fast to find an alternative solution to prevent money transfer businesses from being closed down in a matter of days.”
The withdrawal of Barclays’s remittance accounts will not only affect thousands of people and businesses across the UK, but will also have a devastating impact on millions of people in developing countries who are heavily reliant on the billions of pounds they receive in remittances from the UK. The trend of remittance flows is on the increase: officially recorded remittances from the UK reached $3.2 billion in 2011. They play a vital role in helping families in developing countries survive and are a crucial complement to long term assistance and development.
Somalia, one of the poorest countries in the world, will be particularly hard hit. In a country where banking facilities have collapsed, remittances and money transfer agencies, including Dahabshiil, are an essential lifeline. According to Oxfam, an estimated $162million is annually sent to Somalia by the UK Somali diaspora community. Continued support from the Somali diaspora community is essential for the country to successfully emerge from its humanitarian and political crisis, as well as to build the foundations for its long-term development.
Today’s event will take place ahead of Eid-ul-Fitre, the festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when millions of Muslims around the world give Zakat – charity donated through remittance agencies to those in developing countries. British Muslims alone give £100 million during the month of Ramadan to charity for those facing poverty both in the UK and in their countries of origin in the form of remittances.