The Smile of the Child, Athens
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Kalimera sas. Deputy Minister of Citizen’s Protection Oikonomou and colleagues from my own Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, I’m honored to join you today.
I would like to thank President Yannopoulos and the team at The Smile of the Child for convening this important two-day seminar.
I can think of few other issues that are so critical to the health of our societies, that can impact each of our lives so directly, as the safety and wellbeing of our children, ensuring they live in a world free of exploitation, while working to find and return home our loved ones.
I was proud to learn of the work Smile of the Child has done in this field for well over two decades, including with training from our National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – from launching a national hotline and search and rescue team for missing children to its more recent Missing Alert App.
I’m also particularly proud of the work we have done and continue daily throughout the U.S. Mission to Greece, collaborating closely with our counterparts in the Greek government and law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. government places a high priority on ensuring the safety and security of children and missing persons, and we are deeply committed to protecting all people from crime and exploitation. I wanted to take just a couple of moments today to highlight some of our efforts, including our work here in Greece.
The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, in partnership with our Bureau of Consular Affairs, works around the world to dismantle fraudulent document operations of transnational organized crime networks that are used for human trafficking and smuggling, child exploitation, and much more.
Diplomatic Security partners with law enforcement agencies to jointly raise local awareness and combat the sexual exploitation of children. These agents also work closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on international missing children’s cases.
Working with Greek law enforcement agencies, Diplomatic Security routinely shares criminal intelligence on these matters. We share notifications of possible travel to Greece by individuals previously convicted for child sex crimes.
DS also provides specialized document fraud and imposter detection training to host country partners so that they have the tools and support they need to prosecute these crimes to the fullest extent possible.
Our Department of Homeland Security is also a major player in this area. Just last year, our Homeland Security Investigations team rescued over 1,000 child victims of sexual exploitation worldwide and arrested over 3,000 individuals for the sexual exploitation of children.
Homeland Security collaborates very closely with our Greek law enforcement partners and aggressively works joint investigations and shares intelligence on these matters.
Just this month, our Homeland Security team in Athens shared with Greek law enforcement the identities of more than two dozen individuals who were purchasing child sexual abuse material online.
Since 2016, Homeland Security, in collaboration with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Marshals Service, has led the Angel Watch Center, which plays a crucial role in the global fight against child sex tourism by targeting individuals who have been previously convicted of sexual crimes against children.
The FBI, whose representatives will be talking with you about this in greater depth, also works closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to share resources to ensure the most effective response to child sex trafficking, child sexual exploitation, and child abductions.
The FBI’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team provides expertise in social media exploitation, communication analysis, specialized investigative techniques and operations to locate missing children around the world.
The FBI continuously works to disrupt the attempts of sexual offenders through undercover operations, public outreach, and cooperation with law enforcement partners around the world, including here in Greece.
Lastly, in 2004, the FBI launched the Violent Crimes Against Children International Task Force (VCACITF), the largest such task force in the world, to assist in investigating complex, multinational child sexual exploitation networks. This task force has now grown to 55 active members from 38 countries, including a member from the Hellenic Police.
These are matters requiring our collective efforts and vigilance, and everyone here has a key role to play. On behalf of the U.S. Mission in Greece, I want to thank everyone for your participation, and I hope this seminar provides us with a great opportunity to strengthen our cooperation across our various agencies and fields of collaboration.