Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Paedophiles 'targeting aid agencies'
Paedophile rings are setting up fake charities to prey on children
The Foreign Office has promised to investigate reports of paedophiles targeting aid agencies to prey on children in the developing world.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service, the agency responsible for monitoring known child abusers, has described the problem as equivalent to sex tourism in Thailand and other countries.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said details about alleged incidents in Ethiopia had been passed to Scotland Yard by the British embassy in Addis Ababa.
According to an investigation by The Guardian, paedophiles from the United Kingdom and Canada have infiltrated an aid agency working with orphans from the Ethiopian famine.
The newspaper says the men went to live in a children's village called Jari in the southern Wollo region, where they worked for Terre des Hommes Lausanne, Switzerland's largest children's charity.
An NCIS spokesman also said he knew of paedophile networks who had created fake charities in Third World countries.
"These pretend charities are in effect nothing more than paedophile rings," he said.
Many of these people were professionals, such as children and care workers, he said.
The Ethiopia project director of Save the Children has written to his staff after learning of the Jari infiltration.
"The lesson that must be learned is that paedophilia is a major but frequently hidden problem. We also know the aid agencies that work with children are vulnerable to being targeted by paedophiles."
Other charities and aid agencies have equally expressed concern about the danger of child abusers and sex offenders getting to work with children, who have often already survived horrific experiences.
A spokesman for Terre des Hommes Lausanne admitted: "We are afraid this could happen to us again."
"It's not good enough for us just to hope things will be all right," he said.
"We know there are some very dangerous, troubled individuals out there and they are trying hard to get into positions of trust in organisations very like our own.
"We are not at all naÔve about this. We have had the warnings over the years and we have stringent guidelines in place."
The Foreign Office spokeswoman promised action would be taken to tackle the issue.
"We will be looking to work with foreign governments in combating this problem," she said.
Six children's groups, including NCH Action for Children and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, are calling for action to plug a loophole which allows paedophiles to escape being registered on the Sex Offenders Register if they go abroad.
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