UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos warned that some charities operating in Syria are “extremely fearful” that they will run afoul of counterterrorism laws while providing aid. According to a BBC Radio 4 interview with Amos, charities providing services in areas controlled by ISIS, which was recently designated as a terrorist group by the British government, worry they could be prosecuted for any engagement with ISIS, even when it is for the sole purpose of providing aid to civilians. Both the UK and U.S. have very strict laws against any transactions with designated groups, regardless if the transaction is necessary to gain access to civilians.
Amos said these laws need to change in order to let humanitarians do their vital work. “We have reports of people being on the brink of running out of food,” said Amos, “People certainly have run out of medical supplies in many of these areas. So as the needs rise, we’re having fewer people in the ground able to meet those needs and ultimately, people will die.”
The radio segment also includes first-hand accounts of the restrictions from the Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam UK.