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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 22:25 GMT 23:25 UK
UN crackdown on refugee sex abuse
refugees from Sierra Leone
The "culture of violence" has been blamed for abuses
The UN refugee agency has promised a policy of "zero tolerance" to eradicate the problem of aid workers sexually abusing refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, said new measures included an increase in the number of female aid workers, and a ban on sex between employees and young refugees.

Speaking in New York at a special UN session on children, Mr Lubbers denied allegations that the problem was widespread, but said "even one case is one too much".

UNHCR chief Ruud Lubbers
Lubbers: "Zero tolerance, that's what we need"
In February the UNHCR and the UK-based charity Save the Children published a report revealing details of the sexual exploitation of refugee children in West Africa by staff of both local and international aid agencies.

West African refugee children described being sexually exploited by aid workers who offered as little as a few cents or a biscuit for sexual favours.

The report was based on interviews and group meetings with 1,500 adults and children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Report's findings

It said about 70 people - workers for more than 40 non-governmental organisations and UN agencies - were suspected of sexually abusing teenage children in the region.

Teenage mothers said they had to sell their bodies to feed their children.

Mr Lubbers said women were now being given the task of distributing food in refugee camps, to help curb such abuses.

The three-day UN conference - which ends on Friday - is being attended by 60 world leaders and numerous celebrities, as well as about 250 child delegates.

About 3,000 delegates are attending the conference, along with 3,000 representatives of non-governmental organisations.

See also:

08 May 02 | Americas
Annan plea for world's children
08 May 02 | Americas
Children take centre-stage at UN
27 Feb 02 | Africa
Aid-for-sex children speak out
26 Feb 02 | Africa
Child refugee sex scandal
08 May 02 | Africa
Profile: Olara Otunnu
28 Aug 01 | Africa
Mandela's mission for children
13 Dec 01 | World
UN targets child sex trade
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