AUSTRALIAN PEDOPHILES MAY SEEK SHELTER IN

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PACIFIC ISLANDS

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (August 26, 1997 - Agence France Presse)---Australian Federal Police representatives have warned South Pacific police chiefs meeting in Vanuatu's capital of Port Vila to expect an increase in cases of Australian pedophiles seeking shelter in their islands.

John Murray, from the force's international division, said that child sex offenders, scared off by increasing exposure in Australia, were now moving to the islands.

"They come to the Pacific because it's the closest they find. And because people in this region are friendly," said Murray, whose job it is to hunt the pedophiles down.

His warning came as a royal commission report in Sydney today found generations of children were abused while police and local authorities turned a blind eye to sex abuse by Australian clergymen, church officials, and teachers.

The report, by Supreme Court judge James Wood, also criticized years of neglect and under-funding of child protection services. And he warned the extent of child abuse in the general community could be as high as 10 percent and called for a new approach for the care and protection of children.

It is Australia's 1994 Child Crimes Sex Tourism Act, which targeted pedophiles as offenders, that has sent so many running to the South Pacific, Murray said.

"This (act) makes it an offense with extra-territorial implications for any Australian to commit an offense of a sexual nature, to engage in sex with a child under 16. Anywhere in the world, that person can be tried and imprisoned in Australia for that offense,'' he said.

Murray has drawn up a behavioral pattern of pedophiles seeking "safer'' teenage sex in the tropics.

"Sometimes they go on friendship tours, make friends with schoolchildren, invite them back to the hotels, offer to bring them out to Australia on holidays,'' he said.

"Sometimes they claim they're some form of missionaries, sometimes on courses, or that they visit on ethnological grounds. But their real purpose is gaining access to young children.

"In the past two weeks, Fiji police arrested four people in connection with child sex offenses. Last month, two men were convicted in South Australia. Others were also convicted in Australia for child sex offenses on a boy brought from the Solomon islands," he said.

Another inquiry is ongoing in Vanuatu, and there are reports in Papua New Guinea of child sex offenses.

"There are many countries in the region where we believe this is happening," he added.

Pacific traditions mean neither the parents nor the authorities wish to talk about the problem, he warned. "But it's something we have to bring out in the open because it's growing and not going to go away."

However, Fiji Police Commissioner Isikia Savua, who also is attending the Port Vila conference, said he was determined to combat this newly-exposed type of crime in his country. "It's now a political concern in Fiji. Pedophilia is a new word in the Fijian dictionary,'' he said. "For the first time we hear about this. So it's most worrying because one case has now emerged. We're just wondering how many cases there are that we're unaware of."

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