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Syria: Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham

Question for Department for International Development

UIN 191350, tabled on 14 November 2018

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, if she will ask the National Audit Office to investigate whether funding from her Department has been diverted in financial years (a) 2016-17, (b) 2017-18 and (c) 2018-19 to support the activities of the Ha’yat Tahrir Al-Sham militia.

Answered on

21 November 2018

The UK is at the forefront of the humanitarian response providing life-saving and life-changing support for millions of people across Syria, including those living in Northwest Syria where Ha’yat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) is present.

In 2016/17 and 2017/18, DFID spent £205 million and £152 million respectively on humanitarian projects in Syria. In 2017/18, over a third of this was delivered cross-border from Turkey, mostly to Idlib governate in Northwest Syria, where in 2017 we reached over 600,000 people in need. For 2018/19, DFID plans to spend £174 million for life-saving support in Syria.

While we acknowledge that working in fragile and conflict-affected countries carries risks, DFID has robust and extensive controls in place to ensure that tax payers’ money is used appropriately and effectively, that UK aid reaches those who need it most and that it does not benefit extremist groups such as HTS. Our programmes are delivered by trusted NGO and UN partners with proven expertise and track records. We do not provide funding unless these organisations can assure DFID that it will not benefit extremists. All our assistance is monitored robustly, and DFID will withdraw support if there is a reason to believe UK tax payer’s money may be at risk. For example, in September 2018, DFID took the precautionary measure to pause all cross-border assistance at Bab Al Hawa in Northwest Syria, while we investigated concern around whether HTS collected fees from trucks delivering humanitarian aid. Whilst this situation was swiftly resolved, it demonstrates the robust approach we take to these matters, and are working with other donors to mitigate the risks of a similar situation reoccurring in the future.

As with other DFID programmes, our work in Syria remains under subject to regular review and close scrutiny, both through internal and independent processes, including by the National Audit Office and the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which last examined DFID’s Syria humanitarian programmes in May 2018.