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Canada pledges over $50 million to UN Refugee Agency in the midst of corruption probe

UNHCR has recently been plagued with a corruption scandal after an NBC investigation found numerous cases of UN agents accepting bribes and asking refugees for money.

On December 17, Canada pledged $50.4 million in taxpayer dollars for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) over the next 4 years.

The announcement was made by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. 

The agency has recently been plagued with a corruption scandal after an NBC investigation found numerous cases of UN agents accepting bribes and asking refugees for money in exchange for services. 

The UNHCR was forced to re-open a corruption investigation at a refugee camp in Uganda after a report exposed that employees were asking for bribes for resettlement and even essential services like medicine. Similar claims have been made about camps in five other countries including Kenya, Ethiopia, Libya and Yemen. 

According to past UNHCR investigators, the agency’s diplomatic immunity opens up room for exploitation of vulnerable refugees without punishment or consequences. 

“The U.N. fiddles around the edges, they issue new policies, [but] the immunity and impunity remains. The lack of accountability remains … it’s amazing that [corruption[ is still being revealed, because the U.N. crushes whistleblowers,” said lawyer Edward Flaherty who has extensively worked on U.N. cases.  

On the same day of Mendicino’s announcement, an outgoing UNHCR representative told Canada that it should do more for refugees, despite its already high acceptance rate. 

“[There’s] a strong argument to make that Canada should do more for refugees and displaced populations and humanity in general,” said Jean – Nicolas Beuze. 

In 2018, Canada resettled more refugees than any other country in the world. According to UNHCR data, over 28,000 refugees came to Canada last year. 

Alongside regular streams of refugee intake, the number of asylum claimants crossing into Canada illegally from the United States has continued unabated. According to official statistics, 11,973 people crossed illegally into Canada from January to September of this year. 

The growing number of people waiting for their asylum claims to be heard has ballooned due to a backlog. Earlier this year, the Auditor General predicted that wait times for asylum hearings could balloon up to five years by 2024.

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