The charity Human Aid UK is preparing a legal challenge against UK border police after its aid workers were stopped under controversial Schedule 7 counter terrorism laws.
On July 9, Human Aid UK workers were stopped at Heathrow Airport by Border Police as they were about to travel to the besieged Gaza Strip to deliver aid. They were searched and monies they were carrying were seized.
Schedule 7 allows UK Border Police to stop anyone to determine whether they are involved in planning terrorist acts. The powers do not require officers to have any reason for suspicion.
The stops happened after the Charity Commission had visited Human Aid offices only a day before to discuss cash carrying procedures on aid delegations. The seizure of money escalated into a Statutory Inquiry on August 2.
Human Aid UK provides food and health provisions to needy in areas including Yemen, Syria and Gaza.
The charity says these actions are taking place in the context of a larger pattern of “harassment of Muslim Charities at UK borders and prolonged scrutiny of Muslim charities by the Charity Commission.”
In a press release Human Aid UK said: “Muslim charities have been raising concerns for a number of years about disproportionate scrutiny from the Commission, which increased under the leadership of William Shawcross and has continued up until now. This issue has been raised by Sir Stephen Bubb as well as being published in a report by the think tank Claystone.
“In addition to facing intense scrutiny, many Muslim charities have had their bank accounts closed without reason, faced funding platforms refusing to service them and also faced ongoing negative media portrayals.
“HAUK itself has endured bank account closures, denial of service and a Commission inquiry that lasted in practice over five years. Despite these obstacles and challenges, we have continued to deliver the funds entrusted to us by donors in services and provisions for needy people around the world.
“We also note that the Charity Commission statutory inquiry into Oxfam was opened and closed within 16 months despite involving serious allegations of years of child sexual exploitation by its staff and volunteers. The inquiry only issued a warning about their conduct.
“This stands in stark contrast to the last statutory inquiry launched into HAUK, which took almost three years to publish. Questions over monitoring related to that inquiry remain open until today.
“Although the report concluded there had been no misapplication of funds, the process resulted in significant financial loss to the charity and disrupted our life-saving services and provisions.
“Since May of this year HAUK has undergone a restructuring process, resulting in a new senior management team and a new Chair of the board of trustees.
“After coming into the post, the new Chair commissioned an external, independent audit of the charity, which covered the financials, compliance and governance – including policy and procedures – in order to strengthen the charity and remedy any gaps in service.
“Despite these obstacles, HAUK has delivered its most successful Qurbani campaign to date during the blessed days of dhul-hijjah.
“We remain dedicated to providing food and health provisions to victims in war-torn areas, however we are also determined to challenge the overt discrimination faced by Muslim charities by legal means, and in a manner that we hope delivers greater benefit to all.”
The Home Office and the Charity Commission have yet to comment.