Rabat - A former U.N. volunteer for U.N.-affiliated MINURSO said the mission treated its volunteers in “a very cheap way” after Morocco expelled them from mission headquarters in Laayoune last week.
Rabat – A former U.N. volunteer for U.N.-affiliated MINURSO said the mission treated its volunteers in “a very cheap way” after Morocco expelled them from mission headquarters in Laayoune last week.
The anonymous volunteer made the allegations in a letter to Inner City Press, which the New York based U.N. news source published on its site.
The author of the letter says he is one of the 73 volunteers ordered to leave Laayoune earlier this month as part of Morocco’s political reaction to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks calling the Western Sahara “occupied.”
The formerly paid volunteer said the mission’s leadership deliberately dodged the term “evacuation” in order to avoid paying the appropriate staff the financial compensation due to them per the U.N.’s Conditions of Service (COS) agreement.
In 1991, the U.N. set up MINURSO as a peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara after the intergovernmental organization negotiated a ceasefire agreement between the separatist Polisario Front and the Moroccan government. The parties had been fighting for 16 years.
In response to Ban Ki-moon’s remarks – which sparked protests in Morocco and the Moroccan diaspora – Morocco sent the MINURSO headquarters’ staff a letter on March 17th stating they had until March 20th to leave the country.
According to the letter writer, the mission’s senior officials contacted the headquarters of the U.N. Volunteers program in Bonn, Germany on March 19th. The same day, the rest of the staff received an email saying volunteers would return to their home country with a terminated job contract.
A provision in a 2015 version of the COS says that a volunteer’s employment agreement could be validly discontinued “due to the early termination of the project or operation to which the international UN Volunteer is assigned,” as is the case with Morocco’s “irreversible” decision regarding the mission.
The COS also states that if a mission needs to be evacuated for a security reason authorized by the U.N., appropriate officials “will make arrangements for the UN Volunteer to travel to the designated safe haven with the other UN international personnel” and provide financial support for the volunteer’s stay at the safe haven.
“I believe that I was facing a security threat and this is what we call a security situation,” the volunteer, who maintains he should have been authorized to retreat to the mission’s Las Palmas haven, said in the letter. “MINURSO tried to manipulate the situation and not to call it a “Security Evacuation” just to avoid paying money to their own staff.”
Each volunteer would have been entitled $200 a day for the first 30 days and $150 per day for next 30 days if the group had been relocated to the safe haven, the COS reads. The U.N. has two months after the date of evacuation to determine the future of each volunteer’s contract, according to the protocol for a security evacuation.