BANYULE’S Somali community is on tenterhooks with only weeks until the last remittance accounts — the only thing helping their families in Africa survive — are closed for good.
The deadline comes as a report on the imminent threat to Somali remittance lifelines, Hanging by a thread, was released by Oxfam, Global Center on Co-operative Security and the African humanitarian organisation Adeso.
So far there have been no long-term solutions to come from the remittance working group or the Federal Government despite Westpac, the last of the big four banks offering the service, announcing it would close its connections to Somali transfer agencies on March 31.
The Heidelberg Leader previously reported the bank advised the remittance operators at the Bell St Mall it would close their accounts for good at the end of the month after a Federal Court hearing in December.
The banks have scrapped this service because of changing international regulations.
There are about 10,000 Somalis in Australia sending money to their families in Africa.
Heidelberg West residents Nadia Yusuf and Luul Jimale are worried about the desperate plight of their families left behind in Somalia if they are without money.
Mrs Yusuf came to live in Australia in 1996 and has been sending about $300 a month back to her family living in a refugee camp.
“They rely on me,” Mrs Yusuf said.
“They have nothing else to survive.”
Mrs Yusuf said the situation in the camps was dire, with limited water and a serious lack of food.
“They use the money to buy whatever they need — food, medicine, clothes.”
Mrs Jimale came to Australia alone as a refugee in 1994.
She was separated from her young children and sisters, who were left in Nairobi.
Mrs Jimale said she sent money back and was eventually able to get her children out of Africa by sponsoring them.
Now many of her brothers and sisters are dead but she supports her siblings’ children by sending them money when she can.
World of Difference
■ $1.3 billion in remittances is sent to Somalia each year (via money transfer organisations such as Dahab Shiil), accounting for between 25 and 45 per cent of the fragile country’s gross domestic product.
■ Somalia receives only $715 million in humanitarian aid annually.
■ The money provides a lifeline for many Somalis, covering the cost of food, clothing, health, shelter, education and business.
■ The lack of money flowing through to Somali families will greatly affect women who are the primary caregivers in their families.
■ Remittances are often the only money women are able to access and control, making them a vital tool for women’s economic empowerment and rights.