Expat fundraisers in Dubai stunned by punitive new regulations

Published:  19 Apr at 6 PM
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The majority of expats working in Dubai had no idea of the regulations concerning charity work in the emirate until one of their number was arrested for a Facebook post.

Lawyers are now warning companies and resident expats that breaking the strict rules may mean massive fines and a 12 month prison sentence. Last year’s announcement of Decree 9 prohibits collecting donations and advertising fundraising events unless written permission has been given by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department. It’s possible that many expat professionals working in Dubai hadn’t even realised there was such a department, nor that the department also needs to approve the spending of monies received by expat-supported charities.

The decree does not include other emirates such as Abu Dhabi, as all have separate guidelines relating to charitable donations and activities. However. Brit/Australian national Scott Richards certainly wasn’t aware of the Dubai law until he was arrested for his Facebook post promoting a charity registered in the USA which supports refugees in Afghanistan. Had he known, he would have applied for permission to post. According to Dubai lawyers, using the internet to promote donations without a permit can result in a year in jail and a fine of up to Dh500,000.

It’s not just donations of cash that are covered by the decree, as gifts of clothing, books, bedding and more are all considered illegal without official permission. Dubai lawyers believe the rule targets NGOs, other organisations and even individuals raising funds, but doesn’t mention the givers of donations. It would seem that pro-bono services and ‘voluntary acts’ aren’t covered by the law, meaning volunteers can give of their time and expertise without fearing imprisonment. Even so, lawyers are recommending all charitable and volunteering activities should be checked out with the authorities. Only a few charities have been licensed and approved for receiving donations by the authority, but a list hasn’t been provided to date.
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