KATE PICKLES FOR DAILYMAILONLINE (4 June 2015) –
Ten tonnes of aid collections for earthquake survivors is stuck in Catterick… because Nepal’s 30% tax on donations means it is too expensive to hand them over
- Country’s government imposed tax to ‘co-ordinate’ relief efforts
- Critics say it is ‘cashing in’ on crisis with aid not reaching those in need
- Aid organisers want international pressure to scrap controversial tax
- Donations stranded in UK until then as monsoon season approaches Nepal
British donations for victims of the Nepal earthquakes are stuck at Catterick Garrison because of tax restrictions imposed by the country’s government.
Ten tonnes of everyday items, from men’s shoes to sleeping bags and cooking utensils, is holed up at a church warehouse after Nepal put an income tax of up to 30 per cent on relief goods.
Officials claim the tax is necessary so the government can co-ordinate relief efforts but critics say they are simply ‘cashing in’ on the crisis.
The aid was gathered following April’s devastating 7.8-magnitude quake which killed more than 8,000 people, flattened entire villages and left hundreds of thousands homeless in the region.
Organisers behind the Catterick Garrison-based appeal said they were heartbroken that about half of the items collected were still at the Hollybush Christian Fellowship, near Northallerton, a month after they were due to be delivered.
Dr Jagannath Sharma, executive member of the British Ghurkha and Nepalese Community, was devastated the donations were not reaching those in need.
‘Everybody is donating because they want to get the right aid to the right people at the right time,’ he said.
Aid agencies have voiced mounting frustration over taxes being levied at Nepal’s borders, while police have been reported to have stopped trucks loaded with supplies by private well-wishers headed to badly hit areas.
Dr Sharma called on the international community to put pressure on the Nepalese government to lift taxes so the aid can be distributed. If not, those behind the relief effort said they had ‘no idea’ what will happen to the items.
Another appeal organiser, who asked not to be named, said tonnes of other donations from Catterick Garrison had been shipped to the Red Cross in India, but had not been moved to Nepal because of the taxes.
He said: ‘It is very disappointing. People donated goods out of the goodness of their hearts not expecting the Nepalese government to try and make money out of it.
‘We are facing a very substantial tax bill to get these goods to people who need them at a time that Nepal’s monsoon season is drawing closer and the hundreds of thousands of homeless people need to prepare.’
He said Nepalese people at the garrison had also raised about £20,000 for earthquake victims, but were adamant that the country’s government, which has been ranked among the world’s most corrupt, would not receive any of it.
They called for the Nepalese government to work alongside aid agencies to ensure aid reached where it was needed.
Tonnes of donations for Nepal left to waste due to relief tax
A Nepalese Embassy spokesman said the relief taxes of between 15 and 30 per cent, depending on the type of good, had been introduced as its government felt it was in the best position to coordinate the humanitarian effort and prevent aid being duplicated.
He said donations sent to the Nepalese government and aid agencies would be exempt from tax.
An Oxfam spokesman said it was continuing to deliver relief items in a number of ways including by air, overland from India and by sourcing them in Nepal itself.
He said the Nepalese government had reinstated some customs duties it waived after the earthquakes, but these did not apply to some priority items like tents and tarpaulin.
He added: ‘Oxfam’s top priority is to ensure lifesaving aid gets to those who need it most as soon as possible.’