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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

OSCR warns against shadowy Syrian charities

This news post is almost 10 years old

Public should only donate to recognised causes fundraising for Syria says charity regulator

Guidance has been issued by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) on appeals for Syria - advising the public to support established causes and to make sure they are real charities.

Unusually the regulator has also warned the public not to travel to the country as well as advising members of the public not to set-up a charity to raise funds for the troubled region.

In a briefing to TFN, a spokesman for the regulator said the move followed similar guidance issued by the Charity Commission and was in keeping with guidance issued previously by OSCR for typhoon Haiyan and in the Haiti earthquake response.

The best way to help the people of Syria is to donate to, or volunteer with, charities that are registered in Scotland or the rest of the UK - OSCR

The guidance sates: “The best way to help the people of Syria is to donate to, or volunteer with, charities that are registered in Scotland or the rest of the UK that have ongoing relief operations.”

It further states that even people who are travelling for well-intentioned humanitarian reason to the country are exposing themselves to “serious risk, including being targeted for recruitment by terrorist groups.”

Further, the regulator reminds the public that delivering humanitarian aid involves complex legal hurdles and they are required to adhere to charity law, laws against terrorism as well as bribery and corruption legislation.

Cash above a certain limit that has not been declared may be seized by the UK Border Agency, warns the document.

“Direct delivery of aid involves very high logistical costs. Your time, money and personal commitment can deliver greater support to the Syrian people by sending supplies through established charities and international relief organisations,” OSCR advises.

Habil Hassan, a member of the Syrian community in Glasgow, who has raised funds via the DEC and Islamic Aid for Syria, said the guidance was probably a warning to the public to avoid "shadowy" organisations working to fund extremism in the country.

“These shadowy groups do exists but I have heard of none in Scotland,” he told TFN.

“However the guidance makes sense. The public should only donate to credible sources and to organisations they know and trust.

“There has been a number of organisations in England who are linked to extremism in Syria but these are very few and, to the best of my knowledge, have no links in Scotland.

“It’s a precautionary move by the regulator and a welcome one. The Syrian community in Scotland wants humanitarian relief delivered effectively and timely and we welcome moves to make sure the aid gets to where it is needed.”

In May five men from Yorkshire were arrested by anti-terror police investigating suspected fraud by a Syrian aid charity following an investigation by the Charity Commission.

And last year William Shawcross, chairman of the Charity Commission, sparked controversy when he stated some publicly donated cash was “undoubtedly” going to extremist groups in Syria.