This opinion aims at suggesting ways of tacking the problem of sexual abuse of children within and outside of Europe.
It aims at reminding that a European strategy for the protection of children at risk from travelling sex offenders needs to be adopted, enforced and recognised as a priority.
Such strategy needs a strengthened holistic, child focussed, approach, covering:
- the prevention of abuse. Research needs to be conducted into the background of travelling sex offenders;
- the protection of those "at risk" and victims, including the identification of vulnerable children with the establishment of help lines and hotlines;
- the prosecution of abusers, by enforcing the legal framework;
- the partnership with NGOs specialised in prevention, corrective and supportive action;
- and the participation of young people and civil society to create awareness raising.
Moreover, the measures to have an effective proactive strategy must include:
- effective international partnerships with better information sharing, including cooperation between police forces and IT tools for tracking travelling sex offenders;
- stronger bi-lateral cooperation agreements with relevant countries;
- joint investigation teams with other law enforcement agencies;
- agreements with foreign governments to deport and chaperone convicted offenders; consideration of the use of Foreign Travel Orders (FTO) to restrict travel for high risk sex offenders;
- use of vetting and barring of sex offenders to work overseas;
- implementation of a European, and if possible, global public awareness campaign on the reporting of sex offenders. This should be supported by a free international telephone hotline with a "real-time" online reporting mechanism;
- involvement of civil society actors and social partners in raising awareness;
- mechanisms for education, counselling and therapy/medical services for victims and training for those specialising in the field;
- Europe wide launch of the "value statement" Europe Against the Sexual Exploitation of Children – SAY NO!, proposed in the opinion, to engage organisations to commit to the fight against the sexual exploitation of children. A "code" or "charter" already adopted globally (see, for instance: www.thecode.org) could accompany that statement;
- expression by the EU institutions of their ethical and anti child sexual abuse travel policy on all travel reimbursement forms.