The UK’s £13bn aid budget cannot be used to help the British overseas territories hit by Hurricane Irma, the BBC has learned.
Under international aid rules, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands are considered too wealthy to qualify for assistance.
Instead, the UK’s emergency relief will have to be funded by various budgets from across government.
The government has pledged £57m so far to help with recovery efforts.
The Department for International Development denied that its response to the crisis had been affected by any budgetary considerations.
In a statement it said: “This is an unprecedented disaster. It is absolutely right that the UK responded immediately to the people affected.
“This has been our primary focus and continues to be our priority. We are looking at how the current overseas aid rules apply to disasters such as this one.”
There are very strict international rules about what officially counts as foreign aid.
These are agreed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, of which Britain is a member.
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And these rules make clear that only the poorest countries can receive what is known as official development assistance or ODA.
The OECD confirmed that Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands do not qualify for this official aid. Their national incomes are too high.