Interpol to deploy team to Africa to catch ‘sex predators’

Teams of detectives will be deployed to regional hubs in Africa and Asia to help ensure that “sexual predators” do not get jobs with aid agencies, UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has said.

The move comes after some aid workers have been accused of sexually abusing women and children while on humanitarian missions in the developing world.

Speaking ahead of the International Safeguarding Summit in London, Ms Mordaunt said DfID and global police agency Interpol are launching a pilot project “to help stop sexual predators from being able to move between aid organisations without being caught”.

The five-year pilot will cost £10m ($13 million, 11m euros), with the UK contributing £2m towards it.

Save the Children is coordinating the participation of non-governmental organisations in the project.

Ms Mordaunt said:

“Our message to sexual predators using the sector as a cover for their crimes is ‘Your time is up’.”

The new Interpol project, named Operation Soteria after the Greek goddess of safety, will include deploying teams of specialists to two regional hubs in Africa and Asia to “strengthen criminal record checks and information sharing between all 192 members, including high risk countries, and help ensure a more robust law enforcement response against individuals”, Ms Morduant added.

Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said:

“A critical part of Interpol’s mission is to protect the most vulnerable members of society from the most dangerous.”
“This is all the more important when sexual predators attempt to exploit the very people – be it men, women or children – they are supposed to be safeguarding from harm.”

The UK was also supporting non-government organisations “to test a new passport for aid workers to prove an individual’s identity, provide background information and vetting status” in order to make it easier for employers to gather up to date information on applicants.

In July, a report by UK MPs said the aid sector is guilty of “complacency verging on complicity” over an “endemic” sex abuse scandal.

The committee’s inquiry was launched in light of revelations that senior Oxfam staff paid survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake for sex.

The report, which looked at allegations dating back to 2001, says the delivery of aid to people had been subverted by sexual predators.

First Published 18.10.18:

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