Action Alert

World Cup 2014: Know the Facts About Sporting Events and Human Trafficking

World Cup 2014: Know the Facts About Sporting Events and Human Trafficking

The World Cup is one of the most-watched and celebrated international sporting events in the world.

Thirty-two countries are represented by their respective teams, playing for national glory. On June 12, the 2014 World Cup tournament will begin in Brazil, where, just one year ago, protests over economic conditions overshadowed the 2013 Confederations Cup — which many considered to be a preview tournament for the World Cup.

As Brazil has been gearing up for the tournament (taking place from June 12 to July 13), there have been some reported worker deaths. Following the third work-related death of a laborer at the construction site of the Amazonia Arena, employees recently threatened to strike if working conditions and safety standards were not improved. Despite the threat of a strike, work on the stadiums was restarted after the building company presented a safety report that satisfied Brazilian authorities. Six work-related deaths have occurred on site since Brazil began its World Cup preparations.

Looking ahead, the 2022 World Cup is scheduled to take place in Qatar, where construction of the stadium and accompanying event buildings is well underway. An estimated 1.2 million migrant laborers from as far away as India have already flocked to Qatar in hopes of earning a living during the construction of the facilities.

Researching the Super Bowl

In the U.S., the city of Glendale, Ariz., will host the next Super Bowl in 2015. As part of the preparations for the event, Cindy McCain, who serves on Arizona Governor Brewer’s human trafficking task force, helped fund an Arizona State University (ASU) research study through the McCain Foundation. For its research, the study utilized the same type of Internet-browsing technology that Army intelligence officers have been using to fight terrorism in Afghanistan. Arizona will use some of the study’s most important findings to prevent and prosecute human trafficking in the state.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz was the lead researcher for the Arizona State study, and serves as the director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at ASU. In a recent interview on human trafficking around the Super Bowl, Roe-Sepowitz stated that human trafficking can be limited through increased public awareness and through the creation of specialty units in law enforcement: “There’s very few vice-focused units that are looking at sex trafficking of minors in the country.”
The ASU study also focused on the number of ads for sex trafficking before and during the last Super Bowl, as well as the ages of the victims in the ads. They found that 5-8 percent of the ads were for minors, and that it is more likely for minors to be victimized in their own community. Adults, on the other hand, are more likely to be trafficked into a community. Additionally, Roe-Sepowitz commented on the capacity for large sporting events to create an increased demand for trafficking.

No Proven Connection

It is important to note that there is no proven connection between large sporting events, like the World Cup and Super Bowl, and an increase in human trafficking in that city. The Global Alliance against Traffic in Women published a study and article in which they discuss the potential harm that could occur as a result of misrepresenting the relationship between human trafficking and large sporting events. The report examines alleged evidence connecting large sporting events with an increase in trafficking and reveals that there is no verifiable link. The following quote discusses the lack of connection to an increase in trafficking surrounding the 2004 Olympics in Athens:

“For example, some media repeated a misleading argument by the Future Group that there was a 95 percent increase in trafficking in Athens because prevention efforts hadn’t been as extensive as measures during the 2006 World Cup in Berlin. To be precise, 181 trafficked persons were reported in all of 2004, which is an increase from 93 trafficked persons that were reported in all of 2003. However, none of these cases were linked to the 2004 Olympics, according to Greece’s Annual Report on Organized Crime and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Athens.”

The study goes on to warn that because so much attention is focused on large sporting events and a nonexistent link to increased human trafficking, crucial financial resources are spent on expensive media campaigns instead of being used to support services for survivors of trafficking. Another potential harmful effect of focusing unwarranted attention on large sporting events is the possibility of funding organizations that are “not adequately informed to provide anti-trafficking services, and who could potentially harm people who are referred to them.” Lastly, a study from the Sex Industry Worker Safety Action Group warned in 2009 that the focus on a supposed link between large sporting events and trafficking also results in distracting the public from more urgent and long-term issues such as:

“… the lack of affordable housing, rising house rates and urban displacement related to Olympic-related urban development; homelessness, poverty, addiction, HIV and mental illness. In Vancouver, sex workers groups protested the short-term focus of Olympics-related anti-trafficking campaign and called for more attention towards long-term violence and housing issues.”

Posted or updated: 6/11/2014 11:00:00 PM
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