US-based international aid agency Mercy Corps suspended two employees until an investigation conducted by Greek authorities concludes. The investigation follows claims that workers at the NGO had sexually harassed migrants in Greece’s reception centers and had misused funds aiming to the welfare of refugees and migrants.
“Mercy Corps is investigating an allegation of serious misconduct by two of our employees in Greece after receiving a call through our complaint hotline. We are taking this situation very seriously and have reported the allegation to Greek authorities as well as to the funders of our program,” the charity said in a statement released on May 30 2017.
“Two staff members were named in the complaint and are on temporary paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation,” Mercy Corps says adding
“Mercy Corps is committed to the protection of our beneficiaries and has zero tolerance for any form of harassment, exploitation, fraud or theft. Mercy Corps requires its staff and partners to abide by its code of conduct, which includes immediate reporting of any violations. If proven to have taken place, violations of our code of conduct result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or partner agreement.”
The allegations were first made public in May 16, when European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides announced the EU would halt funding to an NGO which he did not named.The Commissioner said that the EU was taking the complaints very seriously.
According to Greek media reports, one of the complaints referred to “a case of possible sexual exploitation of the beneficiaries by the members of the NGO staff ” while the second complaint referred to possible economic corruption by these staff members.” For the second case, the complaint suggested the received funds to aid refugees were used to other purposes.
Assuring full cooperation with authorities, Mercy Corps underlines in its statement that “a comprehensive investigation of this allegation is underway, led by an expert in victims’ rights and, more specifically, with deep expertise in investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation. We continue to promptly brief Greek authorities, including the Supreme Court Prosecutor, as the investigation proceeds and appreciate their assistance with this issue. In addition, Mercy Corps will cooperate with any investigation conducted by Greek authorities and the funders of the program.”
Following the claims of mid May, the Supreme Court prosecutor launched an investigation.
Mercy Corps has been active in Greece since the refugee crisis broke out in 2015.
It has supported tens of thousands of refugees in Greece with cash assistance, information and services, safe shelter and psychosocial support for youth, the statement adds.
Mercy Corps did not provide details on the allegations, citing the need to protect the privacy of the complainant and ensure the integrity of the investigation.