Britain announces platform to track aid sector sex predators

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a statement that Britain's message to sexual predators using the sector as a cover for their crimes is 'your time is up'.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a statement that Britain's message to sexual predators using the sector as a cover for their crimes is 'your time is up'.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Britain will launch an online platform with Interpol to help prevent suspected sexual predators using the aid sector as a cover to harm vulnerable people, the government announced on Thursday (Oct 18).

The Department for International Development (DFID) said it was teaming up with Interpol to stop suspects from being able to move freely between non-governmental organisations.

The move, using existing Interpol systems, follows a series of high-profile abuse scandals.

"Our message to sexual predators using the sector as a cover for their crimes is 'your time is up'," International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a statement.

"We have to give the people that we are here to help the protection that they need," she added, ahead of a global safeguarding summit in London on Thursday, which her department is co-hosting.

The project, named Operation Soteria, after the Greek goddess of safety, will operate from two regional hubs in Africa and Asia.

It will increase criminal record checks and information sharing between all 192 Interpol members, including high-risk countries, to improve the police response in this area, said the DFID.

The five-year pilot will cost £10 million (S$18 million), of which Britain will contribute £2 million.

Interpol Secretary-General Juergen Stock said the new initiative fitted the organisation's core mission of protecting "the most vulnerable members of society".

"This is all the more important when sexual predators attempt to exploit the very people - be it men, women or children - they are supposed to be safeguarding from harm," he added.

Thursday's summit will bring together the world's leading aid players on preventing sexual abuse and exploitation, the DFID said.

Britain's help to NGOs would include providing access to specialist investigators, the government statement added.

It is also plans to support aid agencies in testing a new passport for workers to prove their identity, thus improving the vetting process.

In the last decade, the humanitarian sector has been rocked by a series of sexual abuse scandals that has included some of the biggest names in the field, such as the United Nations and Oxfam.