ALEXANDRIA, VA – The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children announced that a private meeting involving 70 leaders representing law enforcement, governmental and non-governmental organizations from 16 countries and major international bodies was held yesterday in Brussels, Belgium to address the growing problem of transnational child sex offenders who are now traveling around the world to sexually abuse children.
An estimated 2 million children each year are the victims of child sex tourism. Many countries lack laws that prevent child sexual exploitation which has fueled an increase in commercial tour packages being used by many Americans, Europeans and other Westerners who travel to destination countries for the purpose of sexually abusing a child. Many of the travelers have criminal convictions in their home countries for sexual offenses against children. Due to gaps in information sharing between law enforcement agencies, child sex offenders may find it easier to sexually abuse a child abroad than at home.
While there have been important changes in law, public awareness and law enforcement, the United Nations still estimates that child sex tourism is a $20 billion per year industry. A system is needed that alerts destination countries when and where convicted sex offenders are traveling and better collaboration and information sharing is needed between law enforcement agencies.
The Brussels meeting was convened and hosted by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and chaired by its President and CEO Ernie Allen. In describing the importance of the meeting Mr. Allen said,
“Our goal was to develop a solution to detect and alert destination countries regarding the travel of convicted child sex offenders. Today, we made extraordinary progress toward achieving a global consensus. We reviewed current systems, identified gaps and constraints, and agreed upon a strategy to move toward building a system that can be used on the broadest possible basis. We are encouraged by the progress and believe this meeting is a strong first step toward a solution that will better protect the world’s children.”
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what is currently working and not working; identify needs and challenges such as alerting destinations to which sex offenders are traveling; identify ways to improve cooperation; facilitate collaboration and information sharing between international law enforcement agencies; and work together to develop a global strategy to address the problem.
In addition to Mr. Allen, speakers included Ian Quinn, Chairman of the Virtual Global Task Force; Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe/United Nations Special Rapporteur for the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Stacia Hylton, Director of the U.S. Marshals Service; and Cathrin Bauer-Bulst, Policy Officer of the Directorate General of the European Commission; among others.
The meeting reviewed the tools currently in use including INTERPOL’s Green Notices; Europol’s Operation Haven and Project Raven; the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention); U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Angel Watch; the F.B.I.’s Child Sex Tourism Initiative; the U.S. Marshals Service’s National Sex Offender Targeting Center; the U.K.’s International Child Protection Certificate; as well as current initiatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Dutch National Police; among others.
Representatives from the following 16 countries participated in the meeting: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Hungary, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. International organizations attending in addition to ICMEC included: Child Focus, ECPAT, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, Europol, INTERPOL and Missing Children Europe, among others.
Leading law enforcement agencies represented included: The Australian Federal Police; the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the Colombian National Police; the Dutch National Police; the F.B.I.; the New Zealand Police; Norway’s National Criminal Investigative Service; Switzerland’s Cybercrime Coordination Unit; the U.A.E.’s Child Protection Centre; the U.K. National Crime Agency/Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP); U.S. Customs & Border Protection; U.S. ICE/Homeland Security Investigations; the U.S. Marshals Service; the U.S. Department of Justice/Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section (CEOS); among others.
The group committed to move forward together in an expedited way, to begin dialogue and discussion with senior policy leaders, and to expand testing of pilot programs in a growing number of countries as soon as possible.