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Human trafficking and sport

Today Catherine Bearder MEP has written to the national press warning of the affect major sporting events can have on people trafficking. Please see the full text below.

To the Editor,

This weekend hundreds of thousands of American football fans in the UK will be stay up to watch "the Greatest show on Earth", the most watched event in the world. But the Super bowl joins a long list of sporting competitions tainted by their hidden consequences.

It is hard to prove the precise impact of sporting events on the number of women and children trafficked into prostitution, but what is certain is that a sharp spike in demand for prostitutes will find some way of being satisfied. I support Stop the Traffik's assertion that 'however many or few are sexually exploited in the shadows of these events - it's a tragedy.'

Hosting a major event like this is a desirable prize for a country or city. The money made from ticket sales, merchandise, food and drink and entertainment in the area is plain to see. For some, this entertainment involves visiting a strip club (we have already had reports of the "stripper shortage" - some strip clubs surrounding the Stadium are looking for an additional 10,000 girls to entertain the overwhelming crowds expected), for others this may involve visiting a prostitute. As Stop the Traffik argue 'where there's an increase in prostitution there's a massive potential for human trafficking - and that should be enough to inspire action.'

Some action is being taken and for that Dallas should be applauded. A trafficking task-force has been created, and training has been given to airline staff and other key professionals on how to recognise the signs of trafficking. But, as has been pointed out by Stop the Traffik there's one big piece of the jigsaw missing in Dallas: the NFL and the Super Bowl Host Committee have refused to take a stand against trafficking. They have declined to help distribute campaigns materials and decided not to publicly support the efforts being made to curb sex trafficking around the event. This is a huge disappointment - I hope the London Olympic organising committee is listening.

We shall be watching Dallas, with one eye on London.

Catherine Bearder

Member of the European Parliament for South East England

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