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Minnesota Somalis protest cutoff of money transfers

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Remittance rally
Hundreds of East Africans gathered in Peavey Park in Minneapolis, Minn. on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 to protest the cutoff of remittances to family in Somalia.
MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy

Somalis demonstrating in Minneapolis Friday say their families in Somalia will starve now that Sunrise Community Banks has closed the accounts of money-wiring companies.

Several hundred Minnesota Somalis converged on Peavy Park in Minneapolis Friday afternoon to protest the cutoff of money transfers to Somalia.

Hundreds of Somalis waved signs and shouted as passing cars honked. Many said they send hundreds of dollars to family in Somalia each month through money-wiring businesses — the only banks that operate in Somalia.

A Minneapolis bank that facilitates transfers by Somali money-wiring companies closed their accounts today.  Sunrise Community Banks, believed to be last in the U.S to hold Somali transfer accounts, fears prosecution if the bank's system is used to send money to terrorists.

But demonstrator Sharmarke Hussein says that cutting off remittances may help terrorists.

"It's just going to cause more chaos in Somalia because then the people in Somalia are going to be thinking that the people in the West won't help," Hussein said.

Samatalis Haille was among the crowd at Peavy Park. He said he never thought the situation would get to this point.

"I'm quite surprised how the government did not take this seriously and did not come up with a solution that would somehow avoid this kind of situation," Haille said. "Because there are now hundreds of people in this town who want to send money back home and they cannot do so."

Haille said several families in Somalia depend on the money he sends them each month.

Minnesota's congressional delegation is lobbying the State department for a solution.