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Sun 11 Feb 2018 08.50 GMT First published on Sat 10 Feb 2018 21.08 GMT

Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

The UK government has urged the Charities Commission to investigate allegations that Oxfam staff hired prostitutes in Haiti.

 

Oxfam was hit with new allegations of staff involvement with prostitution on Saturday, after claims that employees at a second country mission had used sex workers while living at the organisation’s premises.

Former staff who worked for the charity in Chad alleged that women believed to be prostitutes were repeatedly invited to the Oxfam team house there, with one adding that a senior member of staff had been fired for his behaviour in 2006.

 

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Roland van Hauwermeiren, who has since been embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti, was head of Oxfam in Chad at the time. Van Hauwermeiren resigned from Oxfam in 2011, after admitting that prostitutes had visited his villa in Haiti. One former Chad aid worker said on Saturday: “They would invite the women for parties. We knew they weren’t just friends but something else.

“I have so much respect for Oxfam. They do great work, but this is a sector-wide problem,” the former staffer told the Observer.

There are fears among aid workers that such disclosures might reduce donations to the most vulnerable at a time when funding is already under pressure.

“Charities need to find a way to deal with it – so that people don’t reappear somewhere else,” they said.

Oxfam said it could not confirm whether it had any records about a Chad staff member dismissed in 2006. Its staff in Chad at the time lived under a strict curfew due to security concerns: employees could not walk around freely and were confined to the guest house from early evening. Some employees had raised the issue of prostitutes with Van Hauwermeiren.

Oxfam said on Saturday: “After the investigation in 2011 we carried out a thorough review of the case, which resulted in the creation of our dedicated safeguarding team, a confidential ‘whistleblowing’ hotline and safeguarding contact point within countries as part of a package of measures to ensure that we do all we can to protect our staff, prevent sexual abuse and misconduct happening in the first place, and improve how we handle any allegations.

“Our code of conduct now stipulates: ‘I will also not exchange money, offers of employment, employment, goods or services for sex or sexual favours.’ In 2011 the code only prohibited sex with beneficiaries and anyone under 18.”

Oxfam’s beleaguered chief executive, Mark Goldring, denied suggestions the charity had covered up revelations that staff had hired prostitutes in Haiti during a 2011 relief effort on the earthquake-hit island. His defence of Oxfam’s handling of the scandal came as Britain’s charity regulator said Oxfam had failed to mention allegations of abuse of aid beneficiaries in Haiti and potential sexual crimes involving minors in a report to it in 2011. It took no further action at the time.

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