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Islamic center threatens to close bank accounts in effort to reopen money transfers to Somalia.

Halkaan ka akhri

A Minneapolis Islamic center asked its members this month to cancel their Wells Fargo  accounts if banks don’t allow the transfer of funds to Somalia.

Hassan Jama, executive director of Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center, said if remittances are not reinstated, members will cancel their accounts May 1.

Minneapolis has the largest Somali-American community in the U.S.

Around 70 percent of Somalis rely on remittances to support their families, said Said Sheik-Abdi, program manager for American Refugee Committee. He said 4 million Somalis need food relief and more than 30,000 children died in a three-month period last year.

“This is really a matter of life or death to many people in Somalia because they rely on their family members outside Somalia,” Sheik-Abdi said, “and if they don’t get support, they can’t send their kids to school, and they can’t put bread on the table.”

About 1,000 accounts would be pulled from Wells Fargo, said Hinda Ali a spokesperson for the Somali Action Alliance.

Wells Fargo decided to stop the money transferring service in 2008,  bank spokeswoman Peggy Gunn said.

“We regret that we’re not able to offer a solution right now to assist our customers in sending money to their friends and families in Somalia,” Gunn said. “Really, all I can say is that it was a business decision that was made.”

Rep. Keith Ellison and other Minnesota lawmakers are discussing a memorandum of understanding between the banks and treasury. The goal would be to give banks more comfort that they’re acting in good faith while still subjecting them to prosecution for anti-terror legislation.

Hussein Samatar, founder and executive director of the West Bank’s African Development Center, said while remittances are important to Somalia, he doesn’t think canceling the accounts will make a difference.

“I believe that pulling money from Wells Fargo –– one bank –– is not really going to make a difference, and I don’t know how many people will follow through to do so,” Samatar said.

The last bank to send remittances to Somalia stopped the service Dec. 30, 2011, according to a request for committee action from Minneapolis’s Neighborhood and Community Relations.

“I think we have to find ways for people to get their money back home,” city Councilman Cam Gordon said.

“I would like to do whatever I can to help make sure the people who are over here who earn money can somehow wire it back home,” he said.

A January Minneapolis City Council resolution urged all parties involved to find a solution to resume the flow of remittances to Somalia.

SomaliSwiss@hotmail.com

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