Minn. Somalis Rally Over Money-Transfer Closing

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Somalis caught off guard when more than a dozen Minnesota businesses stopped accepting wire transfers said Friday they were scrambling to find a way to get money to relatives in East Africa and options mentioned by the U.S. Treasury weren’t realistic.

Somalis in the U.S. use the businesses, known as hawalas, to send money to relatives in the famine-stricken nation and nearby refugee camps because Somalia hasn’t had a functioning government since 1991 and has no banking system.

But 15 Minnesota hawalas stopped accepting wire transfers Thursday because the bank that handles the majority of the transactions planned to close their accounts Friday. Minnesota-based Sunrise Community Banks has said it fears unintentionally violating complex regulations designed to combat terror financing.

Abdirahim Hersi, 27, of Minneapolis, was among the Somalis who thought they could still send money Friday. He went to a money service business with the money in hand and was surprised to find the transfers had already stopped.

“I don’t know what to do,” said Hersi, 27, who sends $500 every month to his mother, daughter and siblings in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, near the Somali border. He usually sends the money at the start of each month, so his December transfer is running out. “I’m confused. I talked to my mother and she’s also confused. … I’m really sad.”

He and hundreds of other Somalis gathered to protest in a park, many holding signs with pictures of hungry children and messages such as “I am starving — banks blocked transmitting money to me” and “Banks block me from feeding my family.”

The U.S. Treasury said there are other legitimate and transparent ways for Somalis to send money home. They include setting up accounts with other U.S. banks or sending money through other money transmitters or U.S.-based banks to clearinghouses or hubs in Dubai, which arrange for payouts in Somalia.

Another option, it said, is that Somalis could declare the money and legally ship cash or money orders to those same hubs for payout in Somalia.

Minnesota has one of the largest Somali populations in the U.S., and residents there said those options weren’t practical.

Abdulaziz Sugule, former chairman of the Somali Money Services Business and now a consultant on the issue, said sending cash would be even more risky than wire transfers, as it would be tough to document and might not reach its intended destination. People handling the cash risked being robbed or killed, he said.

Going through multiple money service businesses, such as one in the U.S. and then one in Dubai, adds layers of cost and time to each transaction, he added.

Sunrise Community Banks’ decision to stop the transactions came weeks after two Minnesota women were convicted in October of conspiracy to provide support to al-Shabab, a group at the center of violence in Somalia and one the U.S. says is tied to al-Qaida. Evidence at their trial showed the women used the hawalas to send money to the terror group.

The bank said Friday it would consider an extension of the service if it received some sort of way to minimize its risk. No solution was reached at a meeting Friday with Somali community leaders, money-service business owners and government officials.

U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said a waiver isn’t possible.

“The Department of Justice doesn’t give anyone a free pass right up front for possible future criminal activity,” Jones said. “Federal prosecutors don’t give waivers.”

Somalis at Friday’s rally were trying to come up with their own solutions. Samatilis Haille, who lives in Washington, D.C., but was visiting friends and family in Minneapolis, said he was thinking about using Western Union to send money to Nairobi and asking a friend there to pick up the money and send it on to Somalia through a hawala.

But he said that plan has its own risks: He’s worried if his friend learns how much money he sends back, his friend will ask for more. And, he said, he’s unsure if his friend, who is a refugee, has the identification required to pick up the money.

Kamal Hassan, of Edina, said he has been sending almost half of his income to family members in the Dadaab refugee camp, as well as family inside Somalia. But without the hawalas, he can’t think of a way to get it there.

“I blame al-Shabab. Because it is the terrorists’ fault,” he said. “But the thing is, is this the best way to deal with it?”

He said if the U.S. government does not provide a waiver, members of al-Shabab will seize on this as a way to justify their hatred of the U.S. “They will take advantage of this kind of grievance,” he said.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • muha

    They need to go back to their own country.

    • something stinks

      There is a good reason why the banks stopped sending money to Somalia at the end of December. Can you imagine the stench of the protest if it had occured in August! I’m thinking of the smell of decomposing racoon with a tinge of ricotta cheese.

    • LARRY

      EXACTLY RIGHT!!!!! send them back NOW!!

  • Richard Head

    Send money out of the state and country, then go back to their HUD housing, free EBT food, free school meals, free almost everything. Spend that money to feed yourselves so the tax payer doesn’t have to!

    • Kevin

      Amen Richard!

      • @kevin

        Shut up, Kevin

    • RFF


    • josie

      Most Somalians comong into the store I work at get cas from their EBT card, not food and they come through the line several times. The Government has no control how welfare dollars are spent.

  • DO

    Get a one way ticket and take the money over there yourselves, then don’t come back.

    • josie

      Thumbs up!

  • Random reader

    I am sympathetic to the plight of the Somali people and understand the horror of not being able to send money back to try and save starving family. I hope that the protesters were holding signs up condemning Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan for their role in promoting terrorism, which caused this breakdown in the hawalas. To Somali readers: the people of Minnesota would be more sympathetic if when you gathered you held signs condemning Al Shabab.

    • Kevin

      Your a moron…..

  • http://unionofsomalicommunity.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/minneapolis-boqollaal-soomaalida-deggan-minnesota-oo-mudaharaad-ka-dhigay-xawaaaladahii-laxiray/ Minneapolis: Boqollaal Soomaalida deggan Minnesota oo mudaharaad ka dhigay Xawaaaladahii laxiray « Union of Somali Community

    […] Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and has no banking system. Because there are no financial institutions, Somalis use hawalas, which require little paperwork and reach even the smallest towns, to send money home. Many big banks stopped handling the transfers in recent years, saying the federal requirements to crack down on terror financing are too complex and not worth the risk. (isha: WCCO) […]

  • @kevin

    Shut up, Kevin.

  • Chris Jackson

    Perfect edit: “Al-Shabaab supporters caught off guard when more than a dozen Minnesota businesses stopped accepting illegal wire transfers said Friday they were scrambling to find a way to get money to mobile explosives in East Africa and options mentioned by the U.S. Treasury weren’t realistic.”

  • Chris Jackson

    Another perfect edit: “He threatened if the U.S. government does not provide a waiver, members of al-Shabab will seize on this as a way to justify their hatred of the U.S. ‘They will take blow themselves up over this kind of grievance,’ he said.”

  • Sue

    Who has an extra $300 – $500 to give to anyone. Where is this money coming from?

    • RFF

      You and ME!!!!!!! Time to call for WELFARE reform.

  • fkafka

    “Another option, it said, is that Somalis could declare the money and legally ship cash or money orders to those same hubs for payout in Somalia.

    Minnesota has one of the largest Somali populations in the U.S., and residents there said those options weren’t practical”

    So exactly why didn’t the reporter ask them why it wasn’t practical?

    They (press and Somalis) play us like fiddles.

    • Dale Gribble

      It is illegal to be Christian in Minneapolis, Somali gangs roam the city, murdering and raping whites at will. White women are used as sex slaves and traded as currency. Our tax dollars pay for this!!

  • Kevin

    Aint diversity grand?

  • BearskinBob

    These wonderful people are the living legacy the the late lunatic senator Paul Wellstone who was paramount in bringing them here. If they have enough money to send to their terrorist friends in Somalia why are they receiving welfare?

  • Richard Head

    Where is the “value added portion” of having so many here? What are their contributions to our society? I do go into the somali malls and shops, and I do not see much effort from them trying to assimilate into our society. Instead, we should adjust to their ways? Not Richard Head.

    • sally

      Many other groups come to the USA and do not assimilate into our society, Hispanics for once. So why are you picking on these people? They are not the only ones.

      • Mary

        yes sally you are right about that!! other people groups like Hispanics they too do NOT assimilate into our American society. They are similar to Somalians in this way…and Americans are fed-up with it. Many yrs ago the immigrants that came to America (like my italian grandparents) came with grateful hearts, got jobs, supported their families, paid taxes and all in all were postive contributors to our American society. The people groups that come now days come with their countrys-culture, live off welfare (our tax money) don’t work, don’t pay taxes…they just take take take!! yeah, we Americans are fed-up with it!!

  • musse

    what is wrong with these people whose comments are based on stereotypes? I don’t live in Minnesota as of now but I did live there several years ago. I always used Hawalas to send money to my relatives in Somalia. Shouldn’t I? I’ve worked 60 hours a week in Pepsi Cola warehouse and that is why I was able to send the money. The idea that we are sending money from welfare is ridiculous. We hate terrorism but there is nothing we can do about it. Do you guys now how many of our people they kill every day? you don’t because you are uneducated morons whose scope don’t go beyond what they hear from local news channel.

    • Bigot Bully

      Your EBT dollars at work!

    • Kevin

      And who gives a fu^^ what your stinking as* thinks???????

    • sue

      Musse, you could go back to your homeland and fight terrorism instead of running away to America. If you want your Country back, take it back. Don’t try to turn America into Somalia. it’s not going to happen. Learn English, get rid of the “extra wives, stand up for our flag and respect us. Love America totally , unconditionally or leave.

      • Molly

        very good comment sue, I agree 100%. Mr Musse and all Somalia’s listen up, get a job, pay your own way, pay taxes in Mn, contribute postively to our society or go back to your own country.

  • Bill Clintons Cigar

    I love the smell of diversity in the morning!!!!

    • stinky

      put your shoes back on

  • JS

    Um, yeah, they don’t hate “the U.S.” They hate “white people”.

  • wow

    sit outside a county assistance builidng and watch and count how many mexicans and somali drive up in brand new vehicles and complain they can’t feed their babies…

  • RIII

    From what I understand the money that is not being sent to fund terrorism is being sent for bribes so their family members can get to relocation centers and to the US or other countries. I have been told the Lutherans have a hand in bringing them to the US. I know or have known people from all over the world and can say the Somali people are by act and mannerism the most arrogant and rudest race of people I have ever met. The priorities of immigrants from other countries I know or have known that came here were to learn English, our laws/customs and get a job to support themselves and family, something I cannot say about the Somalis. We have created a problem that there is no graceful solution for by allowing so many into our country, if they do not chose to accept Americans as their new countrymen the problem will only worsen.

  • sue

    We rant and rave here but there is no solution when we keep electing people like Keith Ellison, who is a Muslim, and all the other Liberals to Government. We know Keith votes the Immigrant way all the time. Who votes for Liberals like him? All of us who post here have to vote. It may not clear up the problem, but it’s all we have to get America strong again.

    • Molly

      EXACTLY!!! Vote out the liberals!!!

  • josie

    Just read the paper, Keith Ellison is protesting with the Somalians. Rethink your vote!

  • musse

    We love America but that doesn’t mean we love YOU (RUSH LIMBAUGH STUDENTS). And soon we will be the deciding factor here in Minnesota of who is elected to which office locally or nationally. The only solution is that you guys have to accept multiculturalism and respect the values of others. If you have issues with it, convey it through civilized manner as supposed to enhancing and spreading hatred on comment sections of news websites.

    • What color is the sky in your world?

      So basically what you are saying is that Somalians are going to take over our country? Are you that arrogant that you think that will happen? I think it’s awesome that the banks are doing this!! Hopefully another way to get you packin!! And I don’t mean heat either! Any way to stop your arrogant, rude people!! And your children are extremely ill behaved! My grandfather’s family came from Germany and wanted so badly to be American. He enlisted into the military to defend his new country. When it came to WWll, he went back and fought the Germans. So basically what I am saying is that you are with us or against us. We true Americans have figured out where you stand!! And I hate Pepsi and we need to get Keith Ellison out of office!!!

      • Tarik Ibn Ziyad

        Ellison isa man of the book and a leader of the faithful. With the aid of Allah, he will vanquish the infidel and bring truth to Minnesota. No peace will come until all embrace the will of Allah. So it is written.

        • JS

          Anyone who doesn’t agree is a racist.

      • Jason

        Your words ring clear with me. Many still asleep.

    • Luke

      oh no you don’t musse-muslim somalian, you will not be the ‘deciding factor here in Mn’. If you are on U.S. soil enjoying the freedoms & benefits America gives than you must assimilate to American-culture; learn english,get a job, pay taxes, abide by our U.S. culture. This is America and will not be your somalian country. If thats what you’d rather have,,,then return, nobodys stoppin you. If I, as an American went to another country to live I would adhere to that country in all respects and not expect that country to accommadate me with my american-culture.

  • Tarik Ibn Ziyad

    This is an outrage and an insult to Allah. The infidels mock the word of the Prophet (PBUH). They will learn the error of their ways and the streets w I’ll run red with the blood of the unbelievers.

    • whowho whawha

      There you go again, tryin to cram your beliefs down our throats again. My God and Bible tell me differently. My God doesn’t tell me kill others or myself.

      • Tarik Ibn Ziyad

        Allah is merciful. Accept his blessing now.our triumph is inevitable. The call to prayer shall ring from minarets across this land and the belles of your daughters will swell with our seed. Accept the word of the Prophet (PBUH) and know peace.

        • whowho whawha

          Didn’t you say our streets would run red and now your saying you’ll impregnate our daughters? Sounds violent and pedophiliac to me. You have more than confirmed my thoughts again about your type and that crazy Allah. Why don’t you open up to our GOD? WHY DON’T YOU GO BACK TO YOUR LAND AND WORSHIP? OH THAT’TS RIGHT., YOUR ” PEACFUL” ALLAH HAS EVERONE FIGHTING AND KILLING EACH OTHER!!!!

    • Jason

      Guess what bud Allah dosent run the show in America. You can assimilate to our american culture or kindly leave. Also do everyone a favor and please use deoderant. The people of this country have sacrificed too much to give in to the likes of you.

  • Kevin

    They didnt have signs of suicide bombers? Or signs of the burning bodies of the Blackhawk pilots in Somalia? Did they have portable showers there?

  • Richard Head

    tarik and müsse are gay lovers.

  • musse

    when whites came to this country, did they assimilate the native’s culture or they annihilated them? If you are expecting to see a Somali girl with shorts and a tattoo on her neck, you are hallucinating. plz stop acting like you own this country.

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