Human Aid UK has called on the Charity Commission to end an inquiry into it after police returned money they had seized from the charity and confirmed that it was all legitimate.
The Commission’s inquiry was triggered by the seizure of donations by UK border police on July 9 last year despite the fact that Human Aid repeatedly asserted the funds were lawful and for charitable purposes only.
Nur Choudhury, Chair of Human Aid UK said: “Human Aid UK has worked hard to pursue the funds entrusted to it and we are pleased to have finally retrieved the donations after 10 months. We can now take steps to make sure the funds reach the besieged people of Gaza.
“Now that all public funds seized have finally been returned, we need to question the basis of the statutory inquiry launched at the time. The people of Gaza were deprived of this life saving charitable contribution whilst hundreds of hours of police time and charity time was wasted.
“Moreover, the Charity Commission took the very serious step of initiating a statutory inquiry into Human Aid mainly on the basis of the seizure. We will be writing to the Commission seeking answers and hope that this inquiry, which has already lasted more than 10 months, can now be brought to a close.”
Human Aid had previously warned of a larger pattern of harassment of Muslim Charities at UK borders and prolonged scrutiny of Muslim charities by the Charity Commission.
The charity said it remained dedicated to providing food and health provisions to victims in war-torn areas, but added that they were also determined to challenge the “overt discrimination” faced by Muslim charities by legal means.
On July 9, 2019 Human Aid UK workers were stopped at Heathrow Airport by Border Police under controversial Schedule 7 counter terrorism laws 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.
The Commission said the inquiry would examine:
- The trustees’ management and administration of the charity.
- The charity’s governance, adherence to policies and procedures, use of partners and monitoring and verification of overseas expenditure.
The Charity Commission says the inquiry into Human Aid UK remains open and that “any questions regarding the seizure of funds in July 2019, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, from individuals carrying them on behalf of the charity are a matter for the police, not the commission.”
The Commission added: “We are confident that there is no bias in the way that we assess concerns or make decisions about our regulatory case work. We make all such decisions by applying our risk framework.
“In addition, we undertake regular analyses of our inquiries, which provides additional assurance that there do not appear to be any areas of significant over or under-representation in the charities into which inquiries are opened.”