The House of Lords has made a “crucial” amendment to a government bill that charities warned could have led to aid workers being imprisoned for delivering services.
Chief executives from charities including Oxfam, ActionAid UK and Islamic Relief Worldwide had expressed concern about the effect of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill on its workers.
The bill gives the home secretary new powers to make it an offence for UK nationals and residents to enter or remain in a particular country, or region, which charities had warned “would in effect make it a criminal offence for British aid workers to provide support to vulnerable people in war-torn countries”.
Yesterday, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the bill to exempt aid workers and others, such as journalists, with a legitimate reason to travel to areas where extremist groups operate, from prosecution.
The amendment was passed by 220 votes to 191 and was supported by former independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, as well as the former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Paddick, and NGO worker, Lord Sandwich.
MPs to vote on amendment
Aid charity umbrella body Bond appealed to MPs to uphold the amendment when it returns to the House of Commons.
Claire Godfrey, head of policy and campaigns at Bond, said: "We are thankful and reassured that peers have supported this crucial amendment.
“We are one step closer towards ensuring that aid workers who travel to insecure countries for no other reason but to deliver lifesaving aid are not caught out by the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill.
“It is crucial that they can continue to provide food, water, shelter and medical assistance to the most vulnerable unhindered.”