UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Kidnappings of U.N. staff are increasingly occurring for ransom or to make a political point, the international body's staff union said, citing the unprecedented capture earlier this month of 21 peacekeepers by Syrian rebels.
The union said 43 staffers are currently detained by national authorities, and others are being held by militias and criminal gangs. It gave no details.
"United Nations staff, members of the press and humanitarian workers are being kidnapped, harmed and even killed as never before, sometimes for political reasons, in other cases for financial gain," Staff Union President Barbara Tavora-Jainchill said. "This has to stop."
The union statement was issued Friday ahead of the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members on March 25.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said U.N. staffers are becoming increasingly vulnerable in carrying out their work.
"The United Nations flag, which represents hope, safety and a better life for the most vulnerable, has in some places now become a target," he said.
The union said that according to preliminary reports, about 200 U.N. personnel were detained and arrested by national authorities in 2012, and some 30 personnel were abducted by "non-state actors." It said 15 abductions were politically motivated and resulted in hostage situations, but all U.N. personnel were safely released.
In 2011, a total 18 U.N. staff members were kidnapped and later released. At least 189 were arrested in connection with their duties, the union said.
Tavora-Jainchill urged the 193 U.N. member states when discussing budget cuts to consider the security and safety of U.N. personnel from their countries "who will suffer the consequences of those so-called 'savings'."