CHILD sex tourists travelling from Ireland and other EU countries to abuse children abroad are being targeted in a new crackdown.
Europol, the European law enforcement agency, which includes the gardai, launched Project Haven to tackle crimes of sexual abuse involving children as young as six years old.
Europol director Rob Wainwright said: "Child sex tourism is an abhorrent violation of the human rights of children and is one of the worst crimes investigated by Europol.
"The victims are vulnerable children who deserve the protection of society."
The agency will co-ordinate international operations and support the project through awareness events to discourage potential child sex offenders from abusing children abroad.
"Preventive measures such as a permanent notification or alert system should be implemented at Europol in order to trace child sex offenders and limited their illegal and deplorable activities," it said.
UNICEF currently estimates that around 2,000,000 children are enslaved in the global commercial sex trade.
"A large majority of individuals engaging in child sex tourism as paedophiles, who travel from developed countries to exploit the most vulnerable children, who are generally found in areas of low income," Europol said.
"Shockingly, these children can be as young as six or seven years old."
The initiative comes following a meeting which considered a report drafted by Europol's Child Sexual Exploitation Group.
The report was presented to law enforcement experts from EU and non-EU countries and to practitioners from international organisations and non-governmental organisations.