UK plan to brand Houthis terrorists risks disaster in Yemen, aid agencies warn | Yemen

Yemen could be afflicted with an even worse humanitarian disaster if the British government goes ahead with a plan to designate the Houthi rebels as a terrorist group, senior Cabinet ministers have warned in a letter.

The 11 UK agencies are among the most active in Yemen and include Save the Children, Care, the International Rescue Committee and Islamic Relief.

In the letter seen by the Guardian, the agencies said: “The likely ‘chilling effect’ on banks and other business actors could prove catastrophic for the millions of Yemenis already threatened by hunger, conflict and disease.” .

The move could lead banks and international companies that import food, medicine and fuel into the country to suspend certain activities over fears they could unwittingly fall under Britain’s terrorism laws.

The agencies sent the letter because Whitehall officials told them that Home Secretary Priti Patel, in particular, was pushing for the Houthis to be designated as a terrorist organization under the Terrorism Act, in as part of a review of British policy on Yemen.

The proposal also enjoys strong support from some Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi oil installations and civilian targets were hit by Houthi missiles, while the United Arab Emirates was hit by Houthi-fired missiles in January.

A parallel debate is underway in Washington. The Gulf states have been unimpressed with the degree of solidarity shown by the West in the face of what they see as Iranian support for the Houthis.

The Trump administration first designated Ansar Allah, or the Houthi movement, as a terrorist group for a brief period last year, leading to a 25% drop in imports from Yemen, the agencies said. The decision was overturned by the Biden administration.

The agencies wrote: “We fear proscription is a blunt tool that could further worsen already dire economic conditions and cripple humanitarian response. There is currently no direct provision in the Terrorism Act (2000) for humanitarian licenses or appropriate humanitarian or peacebuilding exceptions.

“The provisions of the law regarding “support” and “funding” are not clearly defined, which makes it extremely difficult for NGOs to know to what extent they can engage with a supervisory authority that is a terrorist organization prohibited. The complexity and lack of clarity increases the likelihood of secondary impacts such as “bank risk reduction” leading to an inability to bring funds into Yemen. »

They continued:[If] If banks refused transfers due to the UK ban, it would likely have a serious impact on remittances, which are a lifeline for 500,000 Yemeni families. Up to one in 10 Yemenis rely on remittances to meet their basic needs. They are the largest source of foreign currency in the country, accounting for 20% of the country’s GDP. More than 100,000 Yemenis living in the UK could no longer support their loved ones.

“Grain importers and banks have told aid agencies they are unsure if they will be able to continue supplying Yemen if the UK proscribes Ansar Allah.”

The warning came as the Gulf Cooperation Council launched cross-party talks, which the Houthis declined to attend in part because the venue is Riyadh, the capital of the forces they have been fighting since 2015.

The talks, which are due to end on April 7, resulted in a brief ceasefire, a prisoner swap and a promise by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government to allow more direct flights to Yemen. Sanaa airport, as well as letting more oil tankers dock at the port of Hodeidah. The Saudi-led coalition has imposed sea and air restrictions in areas held by the Houthis, who overthrew the internationally recognized government in Sanaa in late 2014.