There has got to be a better way.
On Feb. 5, 2015, Merchants Bank of California announced it would stop money transfers from the U.S. to Somalia.
Reports say that U.S. currency regulators fear the money will land in the hands of al-Shabab, a terrorist group based in Somalia.
In response to the bank's actions, Somali-Americans spoke up on Twitter with #IFundFoodNotTerror.
Ifrah F. Ahmed, a Somali-American, started the hashtag.
The money I send back to Somalia helps my siblings go to school and it helps buy them food. They are not terrorists. #IFundFoodNotTerror
— Ifrah F. Ahmed (@Ifrahmed) February 7, 2015
Soon, others joined in.
Everyone in my family sends money back home, remittances are a MASSIVE financial support to families in Somalia #IFundFoodNotTerror
— Hawa Y. Mire (@HYMire) February 7, 2015
I run a Cultural Centre in #Hargeysa, #Somaliland. Without a legal Money Transfer procedure, I will not be able to do. #IFundFoodNotTerror
— Jama Musse Jama (@JamaMusse) February 8, 2015
#SomaliDiaspora sends more than 1.3billion home; to support education, health, food..Self autonomy over dead foreignaid. #IFundFoodNotTerror
— Nourah Yonous (@NYonous) February 9, 2015
Somali Diaspora makes considerable sacrifices to remit funds, by working 3 to 4 jobs and placing their dreams on hold. #IFundFoodNotTerror
— Jirde (@Jirde1) February 10, 2015
Did you know #SomaliDiaspora sends Somalia $1.3 Billion per year in remittances, which is more than any foreign aid? #IFundFoodNotTerror
— Hodan Nalayeh (@HodanTV) February 7, 2015
Merchants Bank of California wouldn't be the first bank to stop money transfers to Somalia — Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp did so in the past.
But it's a small bank. What's the big deal?
The Los Angeles Times spells it out clearly:
"The one-office Carson bank had become a last resort for about a dozen money-transfer businesses that collect funds in U.S. offices and disperse them in Somalia, which has no connections to the international banking system or to such services as Moneygram and Western Union...their representatives estimated that Merchants Bank had handled about two-thirds of the business, estimated at more than $200 million in annual transfers from the U.S." to Somalia.
It's a small bank that many Somali-Americans use to transfer a lot of money.
This means that the bank ending transfers to Somalia could have serious effects on the relatives of Somali-Americans who rely heavily on money transfers to survive — relatives who are unaffiliated with any terrorist group and who will use the money for food, for education, for shelter ... not for terror.