Counter-terrorism stance affecting money transfers to Somalia

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Billboards displaying advertisements for international money transfer companies seen in Mogadishu, capital of the Horn of Africa nation Somalia. Photo: AU/UN IST/Stuart Price

Counter-terrorism measures implemented by some countries are threatening the flow of money sent home by Somalis living abroad, three UN human rights experts have warned.

Somalis send an estimated US$1.2 billion each year to relatives and friends in their homeland who mostly use the money to cover basic household expenses.

The experts fear any decrease could "severely affect" people in the Horn of Africa country, in addition to undermining the political and economic stabilization achieved in recent years.

Dianne Penn reports.

The largest Somali communities can be found in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. 

The money expatriates send home accounts for at least 20 per cent of Somalia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the experts. 

It is also more than the total amount of foreign aid the country receives. 

Somalia does not have a formal banking system due to years of conflict, so the funds are sent via money transfer operators. 

However, domestic and international regulations aimed at combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism are affecting the flow of funds. 

As a result, commercial banks have been closing accounts owned by Somali money transfer operators, thus making it difficult for citizens abroad to send money home. 

The UN experts said governments have a duty to make sure "legitimate funds" can continue to be sent to Somalia. 

They added that the country also can do more to develop its banking system. 

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1'01"

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