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Double Olympic champion Mo Farah on Friday made a direct appeal to the Board of Barclays to grant one year’s extension to the banking facilities it provides to UK remittance companies serving Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Barclays have said that they will terminate the bank accounts from 12 August having made ‘changes to their eligibility criteria’.
The move threatens a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the world’s poorest country. Around 4.2 million Somalis rely on remittances from abroad as their primary source of income. Remittances sent from British Somalis to family members back home are estimated to account for 50% of the country’s gross national income (GNI).
Speaking in London during a break from training to support the Somali lifeline campaign, Farah spoke personally about the crucial role remittances have played for his family and the Mo Farah Foundation and the grave consequences of their sudden removal:
“Cutting this lifeline would be a disaster for millions. The small sums sent home by British Somalis each week enable family members to buy food, medicines and other life essentials.
I have been sending money home for a number of years and the Mo Farah Foundation, along with some of the world’s biggest international charities and organisations, including the United Nations, rely on these businesses to channel funds and pay local staff.
Everyone following the issue understands that Barclays has a bank to run, but this decision could mean life or death to millions of Somalis”.
Barclays announced its decision to cut the banking facilities on 8 May just one day after Prime Minister, David Cameron, co-hosted a ‘Summit for Somalia’ with the Somali President in London. The Summit underlined the importance of fostering economic growth as a means of helping Somalia recover from decades of civil war and creating a stable country. It is widely accepted that remittances play a crucial role in keeping the economy moving and extremism at bay. Farah said:
“I just cannot see how cutting the remittance lifeline squares with British foreign policy in the Horn of Africa. It will undo all the good work the Government has achieved in the region.
I have written to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Mayor of London to voice concern, as have all the leading aid charities and development academics.
We desperately need to find a solution.”