Terrorism worries make it difficult for local Somalis to send money home

For many local Somalis, the ability to transfer money back to their families abroad has come to a sudden stop.

The federal government's big concern is that the millions being sent from the U.S. to Somalia could somehow end up with terror groups, so officials have pressured banks to curtail transfers.

Recently, Merchants Bank, the last local bank to offer "remittance services" to Somalia, stopped doing so. The concern was that continuing to offer the service might result in the bank getting sued by the feds.

The fallout within the local Somali community was swift.

A survey of Somalis hanging out at a local coffee shop revealed that nearly everyone send something back home, and that oftentimes a few hundred dollars can be the difference between life and death.

"My mom is 70 and my dad is 80... if I don't send them money they will be dead," one man said.

It's estimated that more than $200 million is transferred from the U.S. to Somalia every year.

Local activist Jabril Aferea thinks the federal government's concerns about transferred money ending up in the hands of terrorists is overblown, and worried that funds could be channeled through black market channels as legal options dissolve.

"Somalia is getting better and if this is stopped it might have the opposite effect," Aferea says.

A bipartisan congressional delegation is lobbying for a solution, and hopes to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry soon.


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