The conflict in Syria has been described as the worst mass atrocity situation of the twenty-first century. While the UK has been vocal of the responsibility of the international community to act to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, its treatment of Syrian nationals residing within its borders has not mirrored its commitment to protect this vulnerable group.
The Syrian community of Manchester has been subject to various accounts of profiling based on nationality, including police visits, airport stops, and the revoking of British nationality from dual nationals who travel to Syria. As a more recent development, financial institutions, most notably HSBC bank, have also been targeting their Syrian customers.
RAPAR and the Manchester-based Syrian Rethink Rebuild Society have been working in collaboration to document cases in which Syrian nationals have been unfairly targeted by HSBC due to their nationality.
They have uncovered a pattern of abuse on behalf of HSBC in which the bank has turned down customers, inhibited or closed accounts, or refused mortgages for customers because their identity is Syrian.
One template letter from HSBC to its Syrian customers reads: 'Our records show that you are a resident in a country that is subject to financial sanction restrictions. Due to the increased requirements for compliance with international obligations concerning payments to and from sanctioned countries, we have taken the decision to close the above account(s).
'Please be assured that this decision is based on our own assessment of the risk and is not a reflection of you as a customer or the manner in which you have conducted you business with HSBC.'
Another template letter reads: 'We're writing to let you know that following a review of your account we can no longer run a bank account for you. We will be closing your account on [date].'
In one particular case, a Syrian family challenged HSBC's decision to inhibit their account. The response they received via email cited paragraph 25.4 of HSBC's terms and conditions which notes HSBC's right to take the appropriate action to prevent 'fraud, money laundering, terrorist activity, bribery, corruption, tax evasion and the provision of financial and other services to persons who may be subject to economic or trade sanctions.' Upon meeting with a bank adviser and discussing this issue, the bank adviser admitted that the inhibit had been placed on their account solely because of their Syrian nationality.
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17/08/2014 - Yasmine Nahlawi Speaks Out For Syria at Gaza Children Memorial
14/08/2014 - Russia Today Report
09/08/2014 - The Guardian - HSBC accused of closing UK bank accounts held by Syrians
Pressure groups claim to have 'uncovered a pattern of abuse' by the bank, which says it does not discriminate on race or religion... Read full article here.
09/08/2014 - Daily Mercury Article - Why is HSBC closing Syrian refugees' bank accounts?
HSBC's actions have been criticised as discriminatory by the human rights group Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research (Rapar) and the Rethink Rebuild Society, which describes itself as a non-profit organisation in solidarity with the Syrian people... Read full article here.
09/08/2014 - YaLIBNAN article - Racial profiling : Why is HSBC closing Syrian refugees’ bank accounts?... See the full article here.
09/08/2014 - Sunshine Coast Daily Article - Why is HSBC closing Syrian refugees' bank accounts? ... See the full article here.
09/08/2014 - THE INDEPENDENT : 'MPs to hold HSBC to account after Syrian customers are turned away'
Labour MP John Mann said that ‘HSBC has a lot of questions to answer’ and described its behaviour as ‘outrageous’...Read the full article here.
09/08/2014 - RT ARTICLE 'HSBC targets account of Syrian refugees in the UK'
Banking giant HSBC has been accused of “shamelessly profiling” its customers after it closed bank accounts belonging to Syrian refugees and students in the UK... Read the full article here.
09/08/2014 - Press TV ARTICLE 'HSBC closes accounts held by Syrians living in UK'
The bank's move has been described as discriminatory by the human rights group Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research (Rapar) and the Rethink Rebuild Society, a non-profit organization... Read the full article here.
08/08/2014 - THE INDEPENDENT - Exclusive: ‘Shameless’ HSBC shuts Syrian refugees’ bank accounts in Britain
HSBC has been accused of “shamelessly profiling” its customers by ethnicity after it closed bank accounts belonging to Syrian refugees and students in the UK just days after it was accused of discriminating against Muslim clients.
Yasmine Nahlawi, a spokesperson for Rapar, said: “HSBC’s blatant abuse of its power over its Syrian customers is utterly unacceptable and shamefully discriminatory.”... Read the full article here.
04/08/2014 - HUFFINGTON POST - HSBC: The World's Not-So-Friendly Bank
Distaste towards business of banking by the general public is not a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. However it seems that one particular bank has out-done itself by managing to attract the fury of Muslims across the country. HSBC, or 'the world's local bank' as they choose to market themselves, has become embroiled in a heated Islamophobia scandal since it was revealed the global banking giant has closed the business accounts of a number of Islamic charities... Read the full article here.
30/07/2014 - BBC ARTICLE - HSBC closes some Muslim groups' accounts
HSBC bank has written to Finsbury Park Mosque and other Muslim organisations in the UK to tell them that their accounts will be closed.
Read the full article here.
30/07/2014 - THE INDEPENDENT - HSBC closes bank accounts belonging to Muslim clients in the UK
HSBC has closed a number of bank accounts belonging to Muslim clients, including one of London's largest mosques, because they fall outside the bank's "risk appetite".
The Independent reports. See full article here.
29/04/2014 - TEMPLATE LETTERS AVAILABLE!
Please voice your concerns to your MP about how Syrians are being unfairly targeted based on their nationality. Individual letters are preferred, but you can download a template letter here.
Find your MP here.
29/04/2014 - PLEASE SHARE OUR PETITION!
HSBC: Stop profiling your Syrian customers! Rethink Rebuild and RAPAR are calling for the re-evaluation of HSBC's discriminatory policy as well as a launch of a formal investigation into the matter.
Please sign and share this petition.
29/04/2014 - CAMPAIGN LAUNCH!
HSBC has been singling out its Syrian customers in the UK, treating them as second-class customers and abusing its power over them as their financial providers. The Syrian Rethink Rebuild Society, as well as human rights organisation RAPAR (both Manchester based) have documented cases in which HSBC has inhibited accounts of Syrian nationals residing in the UK unless they could provide certain documentation, closed their accounts with no legitimate justifications, refused them mortgages, and turned them down as potential customers.... (Read on).