American paedophiles are to have their passports marked with a special designation to identify them when they travel abroad, the US State Department has announced.
All registered child sex offenders are to have their passports revoked and must now apply for a new document that will come with "unique identifier" that informs of their status with a message reading "The bearer was convicted of a sex offence against a minor, and is a covered sex offender pursuant to (US law)."
The State Department, which issues passports, insists that the change in legislation "will not prevent covered sex offenders from departing the United States, nor will it affect the validity of their passports."
Those affected will be contacted once a list of names has been received from the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, which is responsible for identifying child sex offenders and maintaining the register.
Those convicted of offences against children are already required to sign a register and have details about their convictions made public as part of Megan's Law, which was brought in after the murder of Megan Kanka in 1994 by a man who had previously been incarcerated for child sex offences.
A so-called International Megan's Law was introduced last year in an attempt to stop child sex tourism and international child exploitation. This decree, put before the United States Congress last Wednesday, is part of this latest round of restrictions.
Megan's Law has come under criticism from human rights groups in the United States because of the tough sanctions that it places on sex offenders, especially those who were minors themselves at the time of their crimes. While it predominantly deals with those convicted of rape and molestation, it also includes people who have committed other lesser offences such as indecent exposure, and those who were underage themselves when they offended.
Once on the register, it is near impossible to be removed from it. Megan's Law allows for the publication of the names, photographs and addresses of those on the sex offenders register. There is even an app that can be used to find local offenders.
While the State Department insists that it does not limit the ability of people to travel, many countries do not allow felons to enter. Canada, for example, retains the right to refuse entry to anyone with a criminal conviction in the United States.
Source: The Independent
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