Shamim smiles, looking down at the table in front of him a little embarrassed, when talking about his trips with the aid convoy. For a young man in his early 20s a road trip all the way from the UK to Turkey in a big group of like-minded people was an adventure. After getting his parents approval, he went to Turkey on his first aid convoy to deliver aid goods to Syrian refugees, then a second time after which he decided to stay volunteering for three months. Despite a language barrier, he enjoyed working in the refugee camps and ideas were brewing in his mind but setting up a charity back in the UK. After his return, he immediately started arranging the next convoy to Turkey and once he delivered the aid he decided to stay for a few months again. By now he knew people who spoke English so the work in the camps became easier and more fun. Upon his return to the UK, Shamim registered a charity that would enable a more affordable transport of aid from the UK to the Syrian refugees in Turkey. Instead of organising the convoys that required many people’s involvement and time, Shamim wanted to get donations directly to his charity and then transfer the funds to Turkey. It would make the work easier and safer, particularly since people were increasingly stopped at the borders. His charity was not long-lived. Soon after he registered it and before he even opened the account, the charity was scrutinised by the Charity Commission.
‘We had never had police over, we have never been arrested before, never handcuffed, not me, not my parents, it was shocking’
In September 2014, Shamim realised his passport was due to expire shortly and applied for a new one. But he never got issued with a new one, instead it was cancelled. The day after Shamim applied for a new passport, the police raided his house at the early hours of the morning. Shamim lives with his parents and extended family, including children, that were all shocked by the banging on the door at 4am. Shamim remembers that the police scared his family members and acted disrespectfully, walking on their prayer rugs with their shoes and monitoring his elderly dad while he was using the bathroom. The police took ‘whatever they wanted’, including Shamim’s brothers laptop that he used for work, his seven year old niece’s things, mobile phones and other electronic material. Shamim only got his phone back, he believes the only reason is because it probably is bugged. The police arrested Shamim during the house raid and released him on bail conditions the same day. The bail conditions included a 9pm curfew every day, no visits to the airport – not even to pick up family members – and a list of people he was not allowed to see, including some names he had never heard of. The case against Shamim was suspicion of fraud but was dropped after two months. Soon after, the police raided Shamim’s house again, this time accusing him of funding terrorism but while confiscating his belongings again, they refused to take the portfolio where all his aid work was documented. Shamim got put on bail again, however this time the conditions were better with reporting to the police twice a week instead of everyday. He still cannot go near an airport and need to reside in his parent’s property. This, he says with a sad smile, is easy because being investigated means he won’t get be able to get married and move out any time soon. Despite not having been charged with anything, the investigation has had a major impact on Shamim’s confidence and his relationships with people starting to avoid him because they are afraid.
‘I have this feeling that I am some kind of criminal and there is nothing there. It is crazy’
Now that his charity work fell through, he struggles securing employment while on bail conditions. Being self-employed, he has lost several clients due to the investigation and decided he needs a second job for which he had to do a DBS check. He was shocked when the DBS record came back and it said that he is funding terrorism because of his involvement with the charities. Shamim still has one job but while not qualifying for legal aid, he struggles covering his lawyers costs with it.
At the time of the interview, Shamim had been without a passport for one year and two months. Shamim does not keep his hopes up for getting issues a new passport and concluded that this is a battle he is not willing to take now. If he would get his passport back some time in the future, he says the first thing he would do would be to go for the Hajj pilgrimage.
*All names are pseudonyms*