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15 November 2015


 November 15, 2015

This is a syndicated version of a post by Gabriella Hillgren from The Glocal Village  posted on 10/07/2014


As we have reached the end of the 2014 World Cup, and, Qatar and its human rights abuses have returned to the limelight, human trafficking as a global issue is high on the agenda. Human trafficking is due to the criminal nature of the problem difficult to gather empirical evidence around, and, it is therefore difficult to establish whether the supposed link between it and sports events is entirely justifiable. There is still a debate regarding whether it does in fact increase, or if it just pulls trafficking out into the spotlights because the services are more required. However, the risk is there, it is tangible and it should be prepared for. Three main areas have been of concern to politicians, the security sector, human rights workers etc. within this context; human trafficking, child labour and commercial sex work (Dolinsek S, 2014).

Large hordes of men, unfortunately, tend to attract a large amount of pimps of commercial sex workers. International sports events, such as World Cups, the Olympics and Superbowl (not international, but massive nonetheless), have a proven record of attracting large groups of men. Any large scale event has the potential of creating new influxes of human trafficking for various purposes. Traffickers, especially those who concern themselves with commercial sex, see the potential in expanding their market and customer range.

These events do not only signify large groups of intoxicated fans, but the massive often numerous stadiums, hotels and extensive infrastructure programmes, as we can see in the case of Brazil this year, having to be built for the event’s purpose require time and labour. Cheap labour therefore becomes almost ubiquitous to keep costs down as much as possible.

Migrant workers in Qatar, img. source the Guardian June 2014

The world cups 
Last year it was predicted that over 4.000 of Qatar’s over 1,7 million labour immigrants would die during the construction preparations for their hosting of the 2022’s World Cup. Serious questioning of the capacity of the host countries have been raised during the past couple of years, not to mention in relation to the human rights violations and political turmoil witnessed in Russia just earlier this year. Brazil has also topped the headlines the past months, not only as a prep for the games, but primarily for the severe riots that have been rocking the country since the commencing of the preparations. Brazil is classified, by the U.S. state department, as a tier 2 country, and issues such as forced labour, sex trafficking and child sex tourism are still prevalent. The Brazilian police has expressed concern especially regarding young girls living on the street being forced to sell sexual services as the giant flood of football fans and tourist welled in not a month ago. Brazilian authorities have reported large scale disappearance of young girls during the past few months,

Trafficking is rooted in its coercive methods, exploiting those already vulnerable and taking advantage of their disposition for gain. Trafficked people are almost always placed in unsafe and unhealthy work environments, doing excruciatingly long hours with little or no pay, or the deal that whatever payment is received goes to repay a supposed debt for taking care of the trafficked. Last summer 44 Nepalese workers in Qatar were killed in work related events, accidents and myocardial infarctions, due to hazardous environments, as well as having payments retained and passports confiscated. Pete Pattison from the Guardian so cleverly said;The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.”

What can be done?
One pushed for strategy within the context has been to legalise prostitution for upcoming sports events, in order to monitor the activities properly and for legal protection of those selling sexual services. This was lobbied for in both Canada in 2010 and South Africa in 2010 prior to the Olympics and World Cup. The propositions were, however, vetoed in both countries.

Many organisations have also commenced campaigns specifically raising awareness around the link between trafficking and major events, specifically sporting ones. The local organisation to Brazil, Bola na rede, works to alert tourists of the nature of trafficking in the country. It aims to raise awareness amongst foreign fans specifically as they might be unfamiliar with the local trafficking culture.

Juhu Thukral from the Huffington Post further mentions these two campaigns in her article:
Play Fair – A sporting chance for workers and Red Card for Fifa

Lets make sure less people are stuck in slavery and unfair working conditions by the next World Cup, to not have the name of the sport sullied by the activities surrounding it.


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Gabriella Hillgren

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