THE government has been slammed over its failure to protect Gambian children from British paedophiles, the Sun Online can reveal.
United Nation’s independent expert Maud de Boer-Buquicchio says more needs to be done to stop predators travelling to the poor West African country to indulge in sick child abuse holidays.
The human rights expert, who was invited by the Gambia government to investigate the problem in October last year, spoke out after we revealed how the tourist hotspot had become a ‘paedophile’s paradise’ due to weak law enforcement there.
In an exclusive interview with Sun Online, Maud said: “It is a huge concern that child abusers are travelling from the UK and the Home Office needs to assume responsibility for this.
“The British government should work with the tourist agencies and make it clear this is not acceptable.
“Interpol has a green list of convicted offenders and those people are not allowed to travel.
A tourist wades into the sea with a small African child in The Gambia – there is no proof child abuse was taking place here Credit: My Story Media
Two school-age girls play at the feet of two men, their mums nowhere in sight Credit: My Story Media
United Nation’s official Maud de Boer-Buquicchio is shocked at the lack of action from the government Credit: Council of Europe
“The problem is that there are lots of paedophiles who are not on the list and they are difficult to identify.
“What I saw during my mission to The Gambia in October was shocking and I am concerned.
“The child abusers are coming from the UK and other countries and this means that those countries should be active in trying to prevent it.
“The abuse is happening, not only in hotels, but also in private residences where it is difficult to monitor and The Gambia is a poor country and that makes children vulnerable to exploitation.
“The government should work with airports and airlines to stop sex offenders travelling.”
Lamin Fatty, National Coordinator of the Children’s Protection Alliance, said this boy shouldn’t be in a bar so late at night, adding: “We do not encourage physical affection with minors”Credit: My Story Media
‘I’ve seen men in their 70s with little local girls’
And like myself, Maud has seen the abuse happening first hand.
“I have no doubt that tourists are abusing children because I have seen it myself,” she says.
“I saw an elderly Western man in his 70s with a little local girl who cannot have been older than 14.
“I walked past them and she did not look comfortable with him.
“Of course I do not have evidence that he was a paedophile, but the girl’s mother was not there and I have reasonable suspicion. This type of thing is taking place openly in The Gambia.”
Last week the Sun Online revealed how Westerners are paying as little as £2 a time for sex with Gambian kids and one expert described it as a “paedophile’s paradise”.
Other predators are posing as Good Samaritans to worm their way into Gambian families.
Convictions are rare. The only foreign man successfully jailed for abusing little children, Norwegian teacher Svein Agesandakar, 57, who was arrested in 2006, was later pardoned by the president.
Our hard hitting report went viral around the world and led to a huge outcry as people took to social media – and wrote to the Sun Online – to demand action.
A culture of silence
Yet the Gambia Tourism Board described our findings as “malicious”.
An NCA spokesperson issued a statement saying: “International partners implement their own laws and are responsible for their own policing.
“The NCA leads the UK’s fight against serious and organised crime and where crimes fall into our remit, internationally or domestically, we work with partners to bring offenders to justice and disrupt organised crime groups.
“Offences committed abroad should be reported immediately to that country’s law enforcement and or safeguarding organisations, where the offence happened.
“Safeguarding child sexual abuse victims, which is the NCA’s priority, is almost always best achieved through local intervention and local support.
Maud is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children and her full report on the Gambian issue will be released in March next year.
She added: “One positive is that neighbourhood watch groups have been created near the tourist areas and they do what they can to identify places that are being used for child abuse.
“But the people need law enforcement to follow through and make arrests yet there has not been a successful conviction to date.
“There is a culture of silence around child sexual abuse that prevents children from reporting it.
“The message they get from parents is that it brings shame and stigma on the family if they speak out, so they often end up withdrawing their allegations.
“Law enforcement is also extremely weak. That is because of the culture of silence but also because the police and judiciary lack experience and expertise.