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UK threatens to cut off aid cash to charities after Oxfam scandal

China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-12 11:31

LONDON - The British Government said on Sunday it is warning all charities that receive UK aid to step up efforts to tackle sexual misconduct among staff or face having their funding cut, amid further fallout from a prostitution scandal involving Oxfam workers in Haiti in 2011.

The International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt revealed she was writing to the charities to insist they spell out what steps they are taking on the issue and confirm they have referred all concerns about specific cases and individuals to the relevant authorities.

The government made the announcement after Haitian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Bocchit Edmond, said on Saturday that Oxfam should publicly apologize for some members of its staff using prostitutes while working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

"It is really shocking, it is shameful, and it is unacceptable," he said. "I think Oxfam should look into itself deeply if they want to rebuild that trust they had."

The hardening stance follows reports in The Times that young sex workers were hired by Oxfam's senior staff in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake which devastated the island and left up to 300,000 people dead, and that the UK-based charity tried to cover up the scandal at the time.

In the latest revelations, the Sunday Times reported more than 120 workers for UK's leading charities were accused of sexual abuse in the past year, "fueling fears pedophiles are targeting overseas aid organizations".

Oxfam - which employs around 5,000 staff and has 23,000 more volunteers - recorded 87 incidents last year, referring 53 to the police or authorities and dismissing 20 staff or volunteers, according to the paper.

The Charity Commission, which regulates the sector and will meet this week with Mordaunt, has asked Oxfam to urgently provide fresh information on the scandal in Haiti.

The Times of London reported on Friday that misconduct allegations against seven former Oxfam staff in Haiti included the use of prostitutes - some of whom may have been under 18 - and downloading pornography. It said Oxfam's investigation into the charges was hampered by a "determination to keep it out of the public eye".

Oxfam said on Friday the behavior in Haiti was "totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff."

On Saturday, Oxfam was forced to deny further reports that it gave positive references to those it dismissed.

"Oxfam has not and would not provide a positive reference for any of those that were dismissed or resigned as a result of the case," the charity said.

Oxfam said some former workers may have falsified references or asked individual staff members to provide references, but said it couldn't prevent such actions.

Xinhua - Afp

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