The Charity Commission has issued an alert for aid charities operating in Syria or Turkey about the risk of financially benefiting terrorist organisations operating in the region.
The Commission issued the alert yesterday, following recent media reports regarding the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing which lies between Turkey and Syria. The crossing is reportedly now under the control of Hay’at Tahir Al-Sham (HTS), an off-shoot of terrorist organisation Al Qa’ida.
Al Qa’ida is a proscribed organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT), as is HTS, which was added to the ban list by the government in 2017.
The Commission said it is aware that many charities and their partner organisations operating in the region use the Bab Al-Hawa border to deliver aid into the disputed Idlib province in Syria. The Commission alert said there is a risk, given HTS’s control of the crossing, that charities could be “inadvertently funding” the terrorist group by doing so.
The alert reminds charities that “it is a criminal offence under section 17 of TACT to enter or become concerned with an arrangement as a result of which money or other property is made available or has reasonable cause to suspect that it will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism”.
It also warned that “any association between a charity – and by extension its trustees, officers and partners – and terrorism and/or extremism is corrosive to public trust and confidence in charities”.
The Commission said that trustees of any charities still using the Bab Al-Hawa crossing “either directly, or through partner organisations” must consider the possibility they are committing a criminal offence by doing so, and should consider “suspending or stopping the movement of aid” through the pass and explore “alternative routes”.
The Commission said that any charities that have “utilised the Bab Al-Hawa crossing since September 2018 either directly or via a partner organisations” may be required to make a report under section 19 of TACT “if they believe or suspect that a terrorist financing offence has been committed”.
The charity regulator said concerned organisations could email the police, visit the National Crime Agency website, or ring the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorism Hotline.
Trustees of any organisations affected are also expected to “report any suspected loss to a terrorist group under the Serious Incident Reporting framework”, said the Commission.