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Sex scandal hits Zimbabwe aid staff

The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) has dismissed two of its staff in Zimbabwe after investigating allegations that they requested sexual favours from refugees in return for scholarships and other refugee services.

The ICMC, which operates in the Tongogara refugee camp on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says the allegations appear to be substantiated and it deeply regrets the harm done to any refugees.

The Tongogara camp, in Zimbabwe's eastern Manicaland province, has a refugee population of 450 from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and even Afghanistan.

The ICMC's director of operations, Dale Buscher, flew to Zimbabwe last week after the allegations were made against its project manager in the camp and its programme director in Harare.

Mr Buscher says he interviewed 26 refugees at the camp and also a number of refugee students. He says there were teenage girls seeking scholarships who alleged that they had been asked for sexual favours, refused and failed to get the scholarships.

There were adult women who alleged that they were asked for sex in return for such things as sewing machines or items for their children, and who again were denied them when they refused.

Mr Buscher said the harassment seemed to have been going on for at least a year, and the ICMC was "shocked and disturbed".



12 Jul 2002