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Congressional Somalia Caucus Co-Chairs Call for Acceleration of Somalia Remittances Framework

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WASHINGTON — Earlier today, the co-chairs of the Congressional Somalia Caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), were joined by 16 members of Congress in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and National Security Advisor Susan Rice urging for the Administration to accelerate development of a framework for remittances to Somalia.

In the letter, the co-chairs stress the importance of the remittances to the Somali people, saying, “International remittances represent more than 25 percent of Somalia’s gross domestic product. Nearly a third of Somali families say that they would not be able to afford food and basic medicines without receiving money from their relatives abroad. Most business startups in Somalia are funded by remittances. In addition, aid organizations rely on money transmissions to fund their in-country operations. The need for these remittances has become increasingly urgent.”

Co-signers of the letter include Senator Al Franken, Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Maria Cantwell, Rep. Adam Smith, Rep. Don Beyer, Rep. Chellie Pingree, Rep. Erik Paulsen, Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. Suzan Delbene, Rep. Mike Honda, Rep. Barbara Lee, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Full Text of the Letter: September 9th, 2015

Honorable Jacob J. Lew Secretary of the Department of the Treasury Department of the Treasury 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20220

Ambassador Susan Rice National Security Advisor National Security Council The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear Secretary Lew and Ambassador Rice:

We encourage you to accelerate the administration’s efforts to establish a sustainable, long-term framework for facilitating money transfers through secure and transparent channels. We write today to request an update on your efforts thus far.

Deputy NSA Caroline Atkinson and Acting Treasury UnderSecretary Adam Szubin stated that the administration is committed to addressing the Somali remittance crisis. Somali Prime Minister Abdirashid and members of his cabinet have also discussed the Somali government’s role in developing Somalia’s banking system. The remittance crisis remains a vital issue for Somali-Americans in our communities, and we want to continue to stay engaged with you on possible solutions.

We understand that the Department of the Treasury has provided technical assistance to Somalia’s central bank to strengthen its ability to track incoming remittances. In the meantime, money service businesses continue struggling to find financial institutions that will work with them. This has pushed some remittances to less traditional and less secure channels. We are interested in how the U.S. is working with international partners to improve Somalia’s banking system and what efforts are being made to promote Somali-Americans’ ability to send remittances to their loved ones abroad.

International remittances represent more than 25 percent of Somalia’s gross domestic product. Nearly a third of Somali families say that they would not be able to afford food and basic medicines without receiving money from their relatives abroad. Most business startups in Somalia are funded by remittances. In addition, aid organizations rely on money transmissions to fund their in-country operations. The need for these remittances has become increasingly urgent. According to aid organizations, the conditions in Somalia resemble those that immediately preceded the famine in 2011-2012 that resulted in the death of more than 250,000 Somalis.

Disruption in remittances could reverse the limited gains that the Somali government and the international community have made to decrease terrorist acts in Somalia and the greater Horn of Africa. As Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud observed, cutting off money from the diaspora could over time significantly strengthen the appeal of terrorism and piracy for young Somali men.

To protect our national security and help prevent a humanitarian crisis, we must continue to work toward a long-term solution to keep remittances flowing to Somalia. We ask for your ongoing attention to this issue. Please keep us apprised of any developments as you continue this work.

Sincerly,

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