An investigative report by German magazine Stern alleges that UNHCR staff in Uganda and Kenya are engaged in fraud. The report said refugees were paying about $2,500 (2,250 euros) each to get resettled to western countries, with the corruption also including fake medical certificates to ease entry.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said Thursday it was investigating new
allegations of fraud in its resettlement programme in Kenya and Uganda after a
report in the German magazine Stern alleging graft. The report published on January
7 is the result of an investigation in Europe and eastern Africa titled "Passage
to the West for money: How UNHCR staff are selling fake documents" ("Für
Geld in den Westen: Wie Mitarbeiter des UN-Flüchtlingswerks falsche Papiere
In the report, Stern says that an illegal "market" had grown up around the resettlement programme in the Ugandan capital Kampala in which intermediaries acted between local UNHCR officials and refugees willing to pay to be resettled. The report quotes an intermediary who explains how the deals work.
The Stern report said refugees were paying about $2,500 (2,250 euros) each to get resettled. Fake medical certificates to ease entry were also issued as part of the corruption, suggesting that doctors are part of the corruption as well.
In some cases, refugees identified as vulnerable and eligible for resettlement did not end up being resettled because their identity had been sold to other refugees.
Cecile Pouilly told the Agence France-Presse (AFP): "We can confirm that we have received allegations
related to resettlement fraud in Uganda and Kenya" and that allegations would be
"thoroughly reviewed and, whenever sufficient information made available
to us, investigated."
High demand, limited number of places
Under the UNHCR resettlement programme, vulnerable refugees are given a home in third countries. The leading host countries for resettled refugees last year were the United States, Canada and Britain, according to UN data.
The UN agency considered 1.4 million people to have resettlement needs in 2019 alone, but only around 55,000 people departed for resettlement countries last year. The limited number of places "is a factor that weighs heavily in favour of those wishing to exploit the desperation of refugees," Pouilly told AFP.
Previous corruption cases
UNHCR has previously investigated five graft cases involving its personnel in Kenya in 2016-17, which it said had been passed on to national authorities.
"We strongly condemn any attempt to undermine the integrity of our resettlement programme or to exploit vulnerable refugees," AFP quotes Pouilly as saying.
2016-17 cases in Kenya, UNHCR said it had raised awareness among refugees that
all its services were free. It also strengthened its investigative powers.
The agency reported a 60 percent rise in the number of disciplinary actions it had taken between 2017 and 2018, and said 10 staff members were dismissed for corruption.