Leaders to call for urgent action to address Somali family financial crisis
MINNEAPOLIS– Hundreds of Somali-Americans are planning to rally this afternoon at the State Capitol, calling on banks and the federal government to find a solution to a continuing crisis affecting their families. While famine continues to ravage Somalia, Somali Minnesotans face significant challenges in sending financial support to their loved ones. In recent weeks, banks have been unwilling to assist in the wiring of funds through Hawalas, the community-based financial institutions that are the only practical method to transfer funds to Somalia.
WHAT: Somali Lifeline Rally
WHEN: TODAY, January 6, 2012, 2:30 PM
WHERE: Minnesota State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul (Upper Mall).
WHO: U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, hundreds of Somali community members, representatives and leaders from the wider Somali community.
WHY: To draw attention to the ongoing crisis facing Minnesota’s Somali community and call for action to alleviate hardships.
Warsan Farah of Minneapolis is a Somali-American and a member of SEIU Local 26. Up until last month, Farah has been sending funds to her 85-year-old mother in Somalia who uses the money to pay for all of her living expenses. Farah will join other members of her community in today’s rally.
“When I can’t send money to my family through banks in Minneapolis, my family suffers,” Farah says. “I have been sending funds to my Mother since coming to the United States in 2000. She uses this money to pay the rent, purchase food and pay other bills. Since I haven’t been able to send any funds this month, she could be evicted and is unable to buy food. I’m going to the Capitol to join my community in calling for an immediate solution.”
Yesterday, more than 60 Somali-Americans gathered at a Wells Fargo branch office in Minneapolis to close their bank accounts — in an attempt to urge the bank to reconsider its stance regarding fund transfers to East Africa. Of those in attendance, 21 Wells Fargo account holders were able to close their accounts. The remaining customers were locked out of the branch by staff of the bank.
At the end of December, a local community bank that assisted families in transferring funds through the Hawalas also discontinued this service, making it impossible for families to transfer funds.
The Somali Lifeline Rally is being organized by Somali community activists with support from SEIU Local 26 and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy.