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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 15:51 GMT
Crime did pay in Kenyan UN office
Refugees in Kenya
Staff in UNHCR Nairobi office forced bribes from refugees
Emma Jane Kirby

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said it believes that employees at its Nairobi office were forcing bribes from people who were seeking resettlement to third countries during the late 1990s.

Events during investigation
1999: Corruption investigation begins
Feb 2001: UNHCR pulls staff out after death threats
Apr 2001: Three Kenyan UN workers charged with threatening to kill the US Ambassador to Kenya

An investigation into alleged corruption in Kenya suggests that "a criminal enterprise" was operating at the office at the time.

The United Nations Refugee Agency says it first became aware of allegations of possible corruption in its Kenya operations in mid-1999 and asked the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) - a UN monitoring body to study the evidence.

The UN investigating team was concerned by what it found and in October 2001 it brought in special investigators from the police and immigration services of Australia, the UK, the US and Kenya.

UN offices infiltrated

The UN report, based on their findings, says that a "criminal enterprise" infiltrated the department in Nairobi, which was responsible for determining refugee status.

It alleges that a network of up to 70 people, including staff from UNHCR, "designed to obtain substantial profits via false documents and false promises given to refugees" at prices ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 per person.

The report criticises the UNHCR for failing to clamp down on allegations of corruption, which it concludes led to a loss of donor confidence and to a general feeling that the management was accepting corruption as simply being part and parcel of dealing with refugees.

The UNHCR admits that it did not deal with the problem adequately but it denies that it chose to ignore it, pointing out that it has since taken several measures to safeguard resettlement processes in Kenya.

Nine people, including three UNHCR staff are currently on trial in Nairobi charged with cheating and forgery.

See also:

24 Apr 01 | Africa
Bail for UN workers in Kenya
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Kenya
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