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    UK, Interpol to Deploy Experts in Africa, Asia to Stop Sex Predators in Aid Orgs

    © AFP 2019 / Thony Belizaire
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    The UK Department for International Development and Interpol are launching a pilot program to stop sexual predators from being able to move between aid organizations without being caught, an announcement will reveal at the International Safeguarding Summit on Thursday.

    Named Operation Soteria after the Greek goddess of safety, a new Interpol project 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.

    "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," Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said.

    Aid organizations in the UK came under increased scrutiny following a scandal involving the aid charity Oxfam. In 2018, allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of vulnerable people in Haiti, struck by a devastating earthquake in 2010, by Oxfam aid workers surfaced in the media.

    Oxfam has apologized for the behavior of the nine workers who were alleged to be involved. Soon after that the charity's deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, resigned over the scandal, taking "full responsibility."

    The resignation may have been prompted by a warning from the International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who suggested that if Oxfam couldn't show moral leadership, it risked losing government funding.

    READ MORE: Aid Sector Sex Scandal: 'What About the Victims?' Charity Tells Sputnik

    Activists have pushed for more monitoring of aid organizations to prevent sexual abuse of the most vulnerable in affected countries and ensure that government money spent on aid operations doesn't end up in the pockets of sex predators and criminals.

    "This is a pivotal moment. The entire international aid community is in one place, as it looks to change for the better the way the aid sector works. Our message to sexual predators using the sector as a cover for their crimes is 'Your time is up'," Ms. Mordaunt is expected to say at the summit on Thursday.

    Operation Soteria is a five-year project costing $13 million (£10 million). The UK will commit $2.6 million (£2 million), subject to approvals for the inception phase.


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    sexual abuse, sex crime, human rights, Oxfam, Interpol, Africa, United Kingdom
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