UNHCR rejects bribery claims in media exposé

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has dismissed media reports that its staff demand bribes from refugees and involved in acts of fraud noting such reports ‘risks jeopardizing the future of refugees in dire need of resettlement.’

While reacting to an exposé by the U.S network NBC, the UN body said while it may not be immune to risk or failure on the part of individuals, all allegations of bribery or misconduct are thoroughly probed noting it had put in place measures to curtail such acts.

We are fully committed to ensuring the integrity of our programmes,” UNHCR said in a stamen. “Our workforce is also systematically reminded of the obligation to abide by the highest standards of conduct and to make sure that all their actions are free of any consideration of personal gain.”

In hard-hitting series of investigations covering five refugee camps in Kenya, Uganda, Yemen, Ethiopia and Libya, NBC said UNHCR demanded bribes from refugees for various aspects of assistance including resettlement which costs up to $5,000 per person to food rations and medical referrals.

Staff who raise their voices against these vices, the report notes are silenced by either being transferred to other stations or contracts unexpectedly terminated.

With the prospect of donor cut in case such malpractices are exposed, the report says, the UN agency conceals them.

“While UNHCR staff have occasionally faced internal punishment for taking bribes, these sources — almost unanimously — accuse the organization of ignoring or “whitewashing” charges so as not to risk losing support from donors.”

But UNHCR said it had put in place mechanism to investigate any staff misconduct which if substantiated results to disciplinary sanctions, including summary dismissal from the organization.

“UNHCR disciplinary measures have been reinforced, with a 60% rise in the number of disciplinary actions taken by the High Commissioner between 2017 and 2018. Referrals to national authorities are undertaken systematically in cases involving conduct that may amount to criminal conduct and waivers of immunity facilitated,” the refugee agency added.

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