Bethnal Green and Bow Labour MP Rushanara Ali on why banks need to support small money transfer firms


- Credit: Archant

What would you do if your ability to help elderly or vulnerable members of your family was suddenly stopped?

That is the situation facing hundreds of people in Tower Hamlets this summer because they have been told they will no longer be able to send money to elderly relatives abroad or to young people for their education or small family businesses.

I’m referring to how, earlier this summer, Barclays decided to stop bank accounts for small money transfer firms in the UK. It was estimated that 70 per cent of these companies would be negatively impacted, devastating people’s ability to send money to family members abroad.

This kind of giving is important. It reached $530bn worldwide in 2012 and keeps the pressure off the world’s development aid budget.

Consequently I was approached by many distraught constituents. They were extremely worried about how they would be able to get money to vulnerable, elderly and younger family members abroad for things like medical treatment and education. Many money transfer firms – especially those serving Somalia – had no alternative to the accounts with Barclays.

It is right for Barclays to review its procedures and take action against any criminal activities. But, without alternatives, families in Tower Hamlets won’t be able to help elderly and young family members abroad.

I led a campaign this summer to protect that ability, and 46 Labour MPs and I wrote to Barclays. We asked them to reconsider. Double Olympic gold medal winner Mo Farah supported the campaign and I delivered a petition with 25,500 signatures to Downing Street, calling on the Prime Minister to throw a lifeline to families.

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There is often no other legal way of sending money to remote places like Somalia and humanitarian aid organisations like Oxfam also use these services.

I will continue to keep the pressure on the government. The last thing we can do is stand by and watch while people who want to help their families are no longer allowed to do so.