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Oxfam rocked by sex abuse claims

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Calls for an inquiry after the charity released details of sexual assaults by staff

Oxfam is under growing pressure to launch an inquiry after revealing 22 members of staff were sacked over allegations of sexual abuse in the last year.

The international aid charity has 5,000 staff and thousands of volunteers in the UK and overseas and said it dealt with 87 claims of sexual exploitation and abuse involving its workers in the year ending April 2017.

This represented a 36% increase on the previous year.

Megan Nobert, a campaigner who set up Report the Abuse NGO, which highlights abuse in the humanitarian sector, said Oxfam was not unique and should now launch an inquiry into how to avoid sexual abuse among staff in future.

She said: “I have seen this sort of behaviour in any number of NGOs and other organisations.

“If anything, it’s good that Oxfam is admitting to these figures, because at least they are not sweeping them under the carpet. There is a serious problem with abuse across the humanitarian community.”

Nobert, who set up the group after being attacked herself, said that charities had improved how they deal with allegations.

“There has been a lot of silence and stigma, but it is being reported more now,” she said. “There was a lot of retaliation over whistleblowing, even though it is 2017.”

The Charity Commission for England and Wales said it had contacted the trustees of Oxfam over the abuse claims.

A spokesman said: “We are in contact with the charity to establish both how the trustees are responding to the individual allegations, as well as to reassure ourselves that they are taking steps to ensure the charity is appropriately safeguarding all people who come into contact with it, including its staff and volunteers.”

Oxfam’s former country director in Nigeria went public after being assaulted by a colleague in 2010.

Lesley Agams said that her contract was terminated shortly after she reported the attack.

A spokesman for Oxfam said: “Oxfam is not unique. Sexual abuse is a serious problem in society. We all, including Oxfam, need to get better at preventing and dealing with sexual abuse but as an international organisation fighting for women’s rights we have a special responsibility to practise what we preach and protect our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries from sexual harassment and abuse.”

A spokesperson for the Department for International Development said the government required a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual misconduct.

“We expect our partners to have robust systems and processes in place to prevent such behaviour,” the spokesperson said.

“Oxfam have informed us that they are investigating these allegations and we expect this to be carried out as a matter of urgency and in full compliance with the Charity Commission.”