Earlier this week, the UN-based news outlet Inner City Press (ICP), cited a “well-placed” source saying the U.N. personnel who worked at the now-evicted MINURSO peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara were “double-dipping” into their accommodations benefits during their time in Morocco.
According to the source, the U.N. workers had their accommodations paid for by the Moroccan government via a $3 million grant. But the staff of over 73 members also benefitted from the international organization’s Mission Sustenance Allowance (MSA) funds “as if they were paying their own hotel costs.”
The U.N.’s official website says MSA benefits are meant to help staffers pay for living expenses incurred by their work on a temporary project or special mission. The protocol for receiving the assistance stipulates that the amount of the benefits be cut by 50 percent when accommodations are provided by the U.N.
The ICP source suggests that the benefits were not reduced as required.
Morocco cancelled its grant to MINURSO last month before expelling the mission from key offices in Laayoune and Dakhla as part of a political reaction to remarks made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon referring to the North African country’s presence in the Western Sahara as an “occupation.”
Ki-moon made the comments following a tour of the Tindouf refugee camps housing Sahrawis in Algeria. The use of this controversial term sparked protests domestically and in the Moroccan diaspora worldwide in the weeks that followed.
In a statement released on March 28th, the U.N. said Ki-moon “regretted misunderstandings” caused by his remarks, but Moroccans immediately rejected the attempt to de-escalate tensions by condemning the statement as a “non-apology.”
On March 21st, a U.N. spokesperson reported that 33 of the expelled staff members have continued their work from a remote base in Las Palmas, while others either left their position with the U.N. or began leave in their respective home countries.
ICP also released an article last month that included an email from a former U.N. volunteer with MINURSO who claimed his employers treated him “cheaply” when they refrained from calling the mission’s eviction a “security evacuation” in order to avoid paying the benefits due to U.N. volunteers according to their employment handbook.