Refugee charity Care4Calais investigated by British aid watchdog

Charity Commission says it has serious governance concerns

The UK's charity watchdog has launched an investigation into refugee aid group Care4Calais over "serious governance" concerns.

The Charity Commission last August began an initial inquiry into the aid group, which provides aid and support for displaced people in Belgium and France and asylum seekers in the UK.

On Thursday, the watchdog announced that it has now opened a statutory investigation and has appointed an interim manager to the charity.

It said it has identified concerns arising from the charity’s accounts.

"The Commission first engaged with the trustees in August 2020, after proactively identifying concerns arising from the charity’s accounts," it said.

"This engagement led to wider concerns about the charity’s governance, including a lack of clarity around who was validly appointed as a trustee and around how decisions are made.

"The commission is concerned that the charity’s existing governance arrangements may not be appropriate for a charity of this size, leading to potential further problems, including around implementing adequate financial controls and enacting safeguarding policies."

Care4Calais was founded by a group of volunteers to help to support the people of the Calais refugee camps, providing food, clothing and medical assistance.

In a statement, the charity said it has grown considerably over the past year to meet the exceptional needs arising from the pandemic.

"Care4Calais will work positively and transparently with the Charity Commission to ensure best-practice governance and compliance," it said.

"We remain committed to our work supporting refugees and asylum seekers, and to our legal and ethical duties as a charitable organisation.

"Over the last 12 months Care4Calais has grown considerably to meet the unprecedented need of its beneficiaries and the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of volunteers have stepped up and given countless hours to meet this need and the trustees and management have worked tirelessly to support them.

"These extraordinary circumstances have put pressure on our systems and our staff and volunteers have worked hard to meet these challenges.

"The trustees and management committee are all volunteers. In this way charity costs are kept to a minimum so that the maximum benefit can be delivered to people in great need."

In a statement, the watchdog said it could "extend the scope" of the inquiry if additional issues emerge.

The charity has been at the forefront in helping migrants who have crossed the Channel in dangerous conditions.

Last week it condemned the UK government for “wasting money” on an advertising campaign aimed at deterring migrants entering the UK, saying the funds could have been better spent helping migrants.

Record numbers of migrants are crossing the English Channel in small boats, with more than 9,000 making the journey so far this year, surpassing the 2020 total of 8,417.

Updated: August 5th 2021, 12:40 PM