Somali-American women at a fundraiser in Falls Church, Virginia. The proceeds will be sent to Somalia via a money transfer service, as the other option is to fly there with cash. There are no banks in Somalia.
A remittance may be the most common financial transaction you’ve never heard of. That’s what it’s called when an immigrant sends money to someone living in another country. More than a million immigrants call the D.C. region home, and the Inter-American Development Bank estimates 90% have made one of these money transfers. Last year, global remittances were valued at $530 billion.
While using a money transfer service is just as legal as using an ATM, because it involves cross border transactions to places like Somalia, there’s a perception of risk. That’s led some banks in the US and Europe to close the accounts of remittance companies, which in effect shuts them down.