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Aid groups reassure donors

11 October 2013

PA

Outward bound: a forklift-truck driver moves crates of humanitarian aid destined for Syria inside Oxfam's warehouse in Bicester, on 12 September

Outward bound: a forklift-truck driver moves crates of humanitarian aid destined for Syria inside Oxfam's warehouse in Bicester, on 12 September

INTERNATIONAL aid agencies in the UK have rebutted a suggestion that donations for Syrian refugees are going to terrorist groups.

A report in last Saturday's Daily Telegraph quoted the Charity Commission chairman, William Shawcross, as saying that money was "undoubtedly" going to extremists. Under the headline "Charity millions going to Syrian terror groups", he is reported as saying that conditions in the civil war made it difficult for charities to know where aid goes.

The story stated that the Charity Commission was so concerned that it had issued guidance to fund-raisers.

The story was immediately condemned by the Disasters Emergency Committee, which represents 14 of the biggest charities in the UK, and has raised £20 million since launching its Syria Crisis Appeal in March.

In a statement describing the headline as "simply untrue", it said: "There is no evidence that any funds from the DEC Syria Crisis Appeal have been used to support armed groups in Syria.

"The Charity Commission has not suggested to the DEC that it has specific concerns regarding the diversion of funds. In fact, the DEC worked with the Commission to draft guidelines for charities to help them avoid funds they raise for aid to Syria being misused."

The chief executive of the DEC, Saleh Saeed, said: "We are truly appalled that this story could mislead the British public . . . and concerned that it may place the lives of aid workers in Syria at risk."

Mr Shawcross issued a statement saying: "I can reassure donors that known cases of terrorist abuse of charity funds are very low."

In its own statement, the Charity Commission said that its recent guidance was intended to remind charity trustees of their duties when working in high-risk areas. It said: "We want to reassure the public that the established well-known charities working in difficult areas have robust systems in place to ensure their funds reach the intended beneficiaries."

Christian Aid said that it was "entirely satisfied" that its aid reached the right people. "We have rigorous monitoring and accountability measures in place," it said in a statement. "We have a strong financial trail for this money."

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