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Tournament organisers must not take eye off the ball on human trafficking

Football chiefs must act to stop sex trafficking at next year's European Football Championships, Catherine Bearder MEP said today.

key_fighttrafficking.pngIt comes as England was set to discover teams they will face in the group stages of June's tournament and on UN's International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Evidence has shown big sporting events can fuel an increase in the number of people trafficked into the sex industry.

Catherine is already spearhearding a campaign to make sure organisers of the London 2012 Olympics act to curb sex trafficking around the event.

However, the Liberal Democrat MEP is calling for action to stamp out the problem at next year's European Football Championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Catherine has asked the European Commission to work with event organisers UEFA to prevent an increase in trafficked woman and children.

She said: "Next year is a massive year for sport in Europe and millions of people will enjoy both huge events. But there is a seedier side, which must not be ignored.

"I have no doubt the trafficking of women and girls for sexual abuse is likely to increase in both Poland and Ukraine to meet the expected rise in demand for sex."

Greece experienced a rise in the number of additional brothels opened in the run up to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Meanwhile, mega-brothels were installed in cities hosting games in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

And, in Warsaw last year, Myria Vassiliadou, the EU's anti-trafficking coordinator, said "sporting events are a hub for criminal gangs" and "we want to see awareness-raising when it comes to sporting events".

Catherine added: "There is a direct link between big sporting events and a spike in the number of women trafficked into the sex trade.

"I'm sure many of you will know people travelling the European championships or maybe heading out there yourselves and I would urge anyone visiting to be vigilant and report anything suspicious to the authorities.

"Sport should be a celebration and we must make sure it is not tarnished by this vile trade."

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