29 November 2018

Entering its final stages on Monday 3rd December, the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill will introduce a new provision which gives the Home Secretary the power to designate a country, or region of a country, and make it an offence for UK nationals and residents to enter or remain in this area. On return to the UK, an individual such as an aid worker, journalist or development researcher could be investigated by the police. If they are charged with this offence and are unable to prove that they had a “reasonable excuse for entering, or remaining in, the designated area”, the individual could receive a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The UK’s leading civil society organisations and House of Lord peers from all political parties and none, have advocated for an amendment to the bill which would exempt aid workers and journalists. However, efforts have failed which means British people working from NGOs and humanitarian agencies, as well as development academics and journalists, could risk investigation by the police. Ultimately, the bill will weaken efforts to provide urgent aid and relief to people affected by conflict. 

CEOs from the UK’s leading civil society organisations and academics said: 

“We are concerned that the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill would in effect make it a criminal offence for British aid workers to provide support to vulnerable people in war-torn countries. Unless urgently amended, the bill will fail to provide sufficient protection for people who already risk their lives to help others and could instead mean they face police interrogation and arrest on their return, even with the changes proposed by the government this week. 

This is simply unacceptable and will make it impossible for civil society organisations to deliver much needed humanitarian, development and peacebuilding support to people desperately in need. 

If the UK is to continue to assist women and children struggling to survive conflict, and preserve our position as one of the world’s leading providers of humanitarian and development assistance, it is vital that the government and peers amend the bill so that it exempts aid workers and others with a legitimate reason to travel to designated areas. Time is running out to ensure aid workers, academics, journalists and anyone else with legitimate reasons to travel to insecure countries, are not adversely affected by this bill.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. CEOs from the UK’s leading civil society organisations who have signed onto this statement include

Alison Wallace, CEO, SOS Children's Villages UK
Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, Chief Executive, Christian Aid
Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive, Internews Europe
Dylan Mathews, Chief Executive, Peace Direct
Elfatih Ibrahim, Human Appeal, Acting Chief Executive Officer
Harriet Lamb, CEO, International Alert
Girish Menon, Chief Executive, ActionAid UK
Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council &nbsp
Jean-Michel Grand, Executive Director, Action Against Hunger&nbsp
Jehangir Malik, CEO, Muslim Aid
Jonathan Cohen, Executive Director, Conciliation Resources
Judith Brodie, Interim CEO, Bond
Mark Goldring, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
Professor Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies 
Marieke Bosman, CEO, Asfari Foundation
Naser Haghamed, CEO, Islamic Relief Worldwide
Nigel Harris, CEO, Tearfund
Paul Murphy, Executive Director, Saferworld
Philip Goodwin, CEO, VSO
Rose Lukas, Managing Director, Hands Up Foundation 
Sara Pantuliano, Acting Executive Director, ODI
Simon O'Connell, Executive Director, Mercy Corps
Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid

2. Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 400 civil society organisations and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.

3. For further information or interviews please contact Maryam Mohsin on 07555 336029 or [email protected]