Columbus, Ohio has the second largest Somali refugee population* in the US, but banks there have halted remittance programs that allow Somalis to send money ‘home’ fearing the money will end up in the hands of terrorists. From the Columbus Dispatch:
For months, Somalis living in Columbus have complained that it has become increasingly difficult to send money home to family members because of banking-industry fears that the funds could end up with terrorists.
Huntington, JPMorgan Chase and Charter One are among the banks that have closed accounts set up by remittance companies, said Omar Tarazi, a local lawyer who has worked with the Somali American Chamber of Commerce and several remittance companies.
Somali leaders said remittances that refugees send home are a lifeline to families and friends struggling in the war-torn African nation. It has few banks, so remittance companies are crucial to sending money home.
The leaders say banks fear being held liable if authorities discover that the money is funding extremists. The Patriot Act requires due diligence of banks in making sure that funds are tracked.
According to the U.S. State Department’s Web site, remittances totaling $1 billion were sent to Somalia from around the world in 2008.
Wow! That’s a lot of money.
*For new readers:
The US State Department has admitted over 80,000 Somali refugees to the US in the last 25 years and then last year had to suspend family reunification because widespread immigration fraud was revealed through DNA testing.