The British government’s anti-terror law designed to help prevent the flow of humanitarian aid funds to terrorism is under fire. Two former international development secretaries claim that the United Kingdom’s anti-terrorism law negatively impacts Islamic charities.
British authorities say however that any charity involved in humanitarian aid is at risk from terrorist intervention, and that the anti-terrorism law is a screening mechanism for all charities that do work in high-risk zones. British Prime Minister Davis Cameron, noted the prime means for the anti-terrorism law in humanitarian aid and donations was to “root out the charities who misappropriate the use of funds for extremism or terrorism.” According to the British Charity Commission that reviews charities, links to terrorism groups doubled from 234 in 2014 to 506 in 2015.The discovery of charities been linked to terrorism has put all humanitarian aid efforts to “high risk areas” on hold amid renewed fears that Islamic charities may be fronts for Islamic State and other jihadists.
Clare Short, former labor party predecessor, noted “we have all of this enormous capacity of these Muslim charities in the U.K., yet they are struggling with one hand tied behind their back.” Andrew Mitchell, a former international development secretary, noted that some of these charities they can get humanitarian aid into Syria are being held back due to misunderstandings and banking bureaucracy.
The charities placed on the United Kingdom’s risk register include the Islamic Relief Worldwide, one of the largest Muslim charities. Islamic Relief has been linked to organizations known to finance terrorist groups, including Hamas and Al Qaeda.
HSBC Bank of London closed one of Islamic Relief’s accounts over concerns regarding potential terror ties.
Another group found donating to terrorist organizations was CagePrisoners, an organization operated by former Guantanamo bay detainee Moazzam Begg. The groups insists it is a human rights group and conducts legal fundraising campaigns.
More UK banks are now either closing accounts or freezing assets of organizations that they have placed on a risk register. The British banking system is increasingly concerned about the risk of heavy fines and reputational risk if they are caught facilitating terror finance.
Tom Keatinge, Director of the Royal United Services Institutes Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies, believes that new, small charities are vulnerable to terrorism because they don’t have the infrastructure and don’t have the know how of more established charities.
British authorities conducted 80 inspection visits to charities deemed vulnerable to terrorism in 2015 and 50 formal investigations into charities operating in high-risk areas or associated with jihadists.
Authorities identified eleven cases where they had very serious concerns and eight reports where charities were knowingly providing aid to terrorist groups.
The United Kingdom anti-terrorism law, if anything, has helped provide additional support to the British Charity Commission, which is becoming overwhelmed by surges in terrorist aid and financing disguised as humanitarian aid.