English News

The Biggest Threat To Somalia In Two Decades

somaliamapTHE GOVERNMENT is coming under growing pressure to convince Barclays bank to reverse its decision to close the accounts of 250 UK money-transfer companies which allow people to send remittances to support families in various countries across the world, including Somalia, Pakistan, Ghana, Ethiopia and Poland.
More than $3.2bn of remittance a year is sent from the UK, and remittance amounts to some $530bn worldwide, which is more than the total global international development budget. This basically means that the diaspora of all nationalities are helping themselves and not relying on aid. People have come to the UK to make a better life for themselves but are also helping families back home, its vital support.
Barclays and the Government are being urged to find a solution which does not lead to the closure of this vital industry. Around 20 businesses in Harlesden alone could face closure and many of the Somali diaspora in Brent are worried that their families will no longer be able to afford an education and more worryingly not have enough to eat or drink. It is shocking that local papers are not covering this issue and the national papers are not covering it to the degree one would expect from such a catastrophe, is it because of the area it affects? If there was a war in those countries it would make the front page, yet instead of helping to prevent unrest but ensuring remittances continue many are burying their head in the sand.
Somalia presents a unique problem: it does not have a banking sector. That means not only will Somalia be affected when remittance flows stop, humanitarian aid organisations such as Oxfam will lose the ability to send money to the region. Some 40% of people in Somalia who depend on remittance would be affected by that decision.
Simply put there is no other legal way of sending money to Somalia. If these firms are closed, people will have to carry money from airport to airport, and all that’s achieved is that everyone will end up a criminal we cannot and we should not risk criminalising people who are simply trying to support their families”.
A number of countries have been making diplomatic representations. British-Somali Olympic and world champion runner Mohamed Farah wrote to Prime Minister David Cameroun and added his name to a petition calling on the bank to extend its deadline of August 12, asking his 800,000 Twitter followers to do the same. This among other campaigns was successful in convincing Barclays to extend the deadline by four weeks, but what happens then? The cynic in me thinks that it has been extended just so that Cameron and Clegg can make the announcement when Parliament returns.
Rushanara Ali MP has said: "Countries across Africa and Asia will be badly affected and none more so than Somalia... this decision will cost lives, quite apart from potentially triggering a new crisis in the region... shutting this vital lifeline risks giving people no other choice but to send money through dangerous and alternative methods out of desperation.
Oxfam UK is pressing the UK government to act pointing out that the impact of the decision will be felt by ordinary people, families and communities, and that aid agencies and charities will be left to plug the gap. It said if the bank wasn't prepared to find a solution then the government should.
They must find a way round this and quickly so what’s the solution? Long term countries will aim to develop their own regulated banking system, and maybe the expansion of mobile phone banking system will be the solution but all that is a long way off, therefore in the interim surely Cameron and Clegg’s Government can call on Lloyds, of which we the public own 39 per cent, and RBS, of which we own 81 per cent, to provide strictly regulated accounts for the remittances businesses.
Dawn Butler is a former Minister for Young Citizens and Youth Engagement.

Muslim immigrants face more scrutiny for US citizenship, report finds :AP

usamuslimLos Angeles: Civil liberties advocates said on Wednesday they have uncovered a government programme to screen immigrants for national security concerns that has blacklisted some Muslims and put their US citizenship applications on hold for years.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California said in a report that federal immigration officers are instructed to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they’ll flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they failed to receive sufficient information from the immigrant.
The criteria used by US Citizenship and Immigration Services to blacklist immigrants are overly broad and include travelling through regions where there is terrorist activity, the report said.
The ACLU learnt about the programme through requests for records after detecting a pattern in cases of Muslim immigrants whose applications to become American citizens had languished.
“It is essentially creating this secret criteria for obtaining naturalisation and immigration benefits that has never been disclosed to the public and Congress hasn’t approved,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney and the report’s author. “I feel like ultimately this is just about politics. They don’t want to be seen as having granted citizenship to somebody who’s going to be the next Boston bomber,” she said.
It was not immediately clear how many immigrants have been reviewed under the programme, which began in 2008 and is formally known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Programme.
Background checks
Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the agency routinely checks the background of immigrants applying for benefits and puts the country’s safety, and the integrity of the immigration system, first. “We are vigilant in executing these responsibilities, and will not sacrifice national security or public safety in the interest of expediting the review of benefit applications,” Bentley said in a statement.
Under the programme, immigration officers determine whether a case poses a national security concern and confer with the appropriate law enforcement agency that has information about the immigrant. Officers then conduct additional research and put many cases on hold for long periods of time. Most applications are eventually denied, as the programme states that officers are not allowed to approve such cases without additional review, the report said.
Iranian math professor Mahdi Asgari started receiving visits from FBI agents after he applied for citizenship three years ago, the report said. At one point, agents asked him about his relationship with a fellow Iranian graduate student whom he now has little contact with.
Asgari is still waiting for a decision on his naturalisation application, the ACLU said.

Ex-Somali colonel, former US resident, ordered to pay $15M in damages in civil torture case

Magan_ColumbusCOLUMBUS, Ohio — A former Somali military colonel who left the United States while facing civil allegations that he tortured a human rights advocate was ordered by a federal judge on Tuesday to pay $15 million in damages.
Federal Judge Mark Abel awarded the compensation to Abukar Hassan Ahmed, who in a 2010 lawsuit said he endured months of torture in the 1980s during interrogations in Somalia. A judge had previously ruled that the former colonel, Abdi Aden Magan, was responsible for the torture.
Ahmed filed the lawsuit in April 2010, stating that Magan oversaw his detention and torture in Somalia in 1988. Ahmed said that three months of torture he endured make it painful for him to sit and injured his bladder to the point that he is incontinent.
Ahmed said the torture occurred when Magan served as investigations chief of the National Security Service of Somalia, a force dubbed the Black SS or the Gestapo of Somalia because of its harsh techniques used to gain confessions from detainees.
One of Ahmed's lawyers, Christina Hioureas, on Tuesday said the judge's ruling sends a message that the United States will not be a "safe harbor for those who commit human rights abuses." She said that properties owned by Magan could be seized to cover the $15 million.
Abukar_AhmedAhmed was a professor at the Somalia International University and a lawyer defending political dissidents when he was imprisoned and tortured. Ahmed in 2010 found out Magan was living in the United States through a Google search.
Magan lived for years in Ohio. He initially fought the lawsuit, brought by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability, but stopped participating last year and now lives in Kenya. Court documents list Magan as representing himself. An email requesting comment sent Tuesday to the address listed for Magan on the court docket was undeliverable.
Magan had argued that the lawsuit was filed in the wrong country and too long after when Ahmed says the abuse happened. He also had said he faced his own ordeal in Somalia and fled after falling out of favor with the government.
In a 2011 court filing, the U.S. Department of State said Magan shouldn't be allowed to claim immunity. A legal adviser for the department, Harold Hongju Koh, wrote that Magan had been a resident of the U.S. since 2000.
Koh said that, "taking into account the relevant principles of customary international law, and considering the overall impact of this matter on the foreign policy of the United States, the Department of State has determined that Defendant Magan does not enjoy immunity from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts."
Ahmed is now legal adviser to the president of Somalia and divides his time between London and Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.


Somali FM to visit China to seek cooperation:China Daily

fosiyamuqMOGADISHU -- Somali Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf on Monday headed a government delegation to China for an official visit, the first to the East Asian country by a senior official of the current administration of the Horn of Africa nation.
Yusuf, who is also deputy prime minister, was accompanied in the trip to the Chinese capital Beijing by State Minister for the Interior and National Security Mahdi Mohamoud Ali, Deputy Minister for Reconstruction Nadiifa Mohamed Osman and other high-ranking officials, a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.
"The delegation will meet various Chinese government officials on ways of further strengthening the bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries," the statement said.
While taking tentative steps to recover from two decades of conflict, Somalia has been working to improve relations with the outside world.
Diplomatic relations between Somalia and China have a long history. In 2006, Somalia's then president Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed visited China and revived the bilateral ties after years of hiatus due to the raging conflict in the country.
As the situation has gradually improved, trade between the two nations has seen an increase to broaden prospects for economic cooperation in the future.
Before the civil war broke out in Somalia, China implemented various development projects including a national sports stadium, a theater in the capital Mogadishu and hundreds of km of roads throughout the country.
Officials say the current visit will pave the way for development projects to be built by Chinese companies and the direct investment in the Somali economy.

Energy Group Opposes Somalia Oil, Gas :Dealnaturalgasasia

Somalia-Text-Map-771533East African Energy Forum (EAEF), a group of Somali resource experts and lawyers that monitor Somalia's natural resources, waters, territorial integrity and sovereignty has opposed government’s deal with Soma Oil and Gas.
The EAEF says it is opposing this deal after conducting a thorough investigation and concluding it to be contrary to the Somali national interest with little net benefit to the public.
"This deal goes against the very principle of transparency and anti-corruption that this government took an oath on last year. We are surprised at the cloud of secrecy and 'behind-closed-doors' methodology this government believes they can deal our natural resources in," EAEF Director Abdillahi Mohamud said.
Aside from the lack of transparency, the group is also blasting the technical quality of the deal and companies involved that have signed with the central government, EAEF said in a ststement posted on its website.
The EAEF's technical team says that Soma Oil and Gas does not have the expertise or the capacity to conduct the offshore seismic survey themselves and would need to sub contract to a capable seismic company.
"How can a company barely four months in existence be given the reigns to explore in our offshore waters? Who are their sub-contractors that will actually do the work? Why aren't reputable seismic companies being allowed to bid on this project in public as is the industry norm? The government should cancel this deal and conduct itself in a transparent and open mannerthat is good business for the country." said Feysal Mayow, the EAEF's technical director.

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