Human Trafficking in Ukraine Did Not Spike During EURO 2012, IOM Research Finds
(IOM) - The EURO 2012 Football Championship did not result in an increased level of human trafficking for sexual and other forms of exploitation, according to preliminary findings of a research exploring the link between trafficking and the sporting event released by the IOM Mission in Ukraine.
Before the start of EURO 2012 national and international media outlets, Ukrainian researchers and civil society activists, as well as international experts, had warned about the possibility of large numbers of women being trafficked to or inside the country to meet presumably high demand of football fans for sexual services. This risk had also been included in the security strategy for EURO 2012 and law enforcement agencies had prepared contingency plans to deal with such scenarios. According to IOM, these concerns did not come true.
"Close monitoring of the situation and an analysis of law enforcement, IOM and NGO case data as well hotline responses shows no evidence that human trafficking surged before or during the EURO 2012," says Ruth Krcmar, Coordinator of IOM Ukraine's Counter Trafficking Programme.
"In general we saw that there is still a big confusion between human trafficking and prostitution. The interchangeable use of those terms by the media and some experts has led to false expectations and created an anxious atmosphere, in which the real dangers of human trafficking that Ukrainians face today, such as labour exploitation, were not exposed," says Krcmar.
IOM's research suggests that there was no increase in the number of victims of sexual or labour exploitation or in child begging, which could be linked to the EURO.
Whereas law enforcement officials stated that they have stopped several attempts of internal trafficking in the months before the football tournament, no human trafficking victims were identified during or closely after the event in either of the four football venues - Kyiv, Khakiv, Lviv and Donestk - by the police or IOM's partner NGOs who specialize on victim assistance.
IOM's own and other organizations' anti-trafficking hotlines, which worked longer hours and employed English-speaking operators during the EURO 2012, did also not register an increase in calls and no "SOS" calls from victims or their relatives were received.
According to IOM's preliminary analysis there are several reasons why the feared scenarios did not come true. Mainly, expectations for an increase in demand for sexual services by football fans were exaggerated. The awaited surge in human trafficking was not based on previous experiences and a thorough examination of factors usually facilitating trafficking. Secondly, increased attention, high preparedness and several pre-emptive actions by law enforcement are likely to have had a deterring effect on potential traffickers. Thirdly, preventive efforts by civil society and media attention did help raise awareness among possible clients and potential victims.
The results are in line with earlier findings. IOM carried out similar monitoring during the football World Cups in Germany in 2006 and in South Africa in 2010. Their outcomes also showed no increase of sexual exploitation during the tournaments.
"The fear of increased human trafficking for sexual exploitation comes up every time there is a large sporting event on the horizon, although our experience only reinforces earlier findings in other countries. We hope that studies like ours will eventually put an end to the myth, which results in scarce counter-trafficking resources being spent on one-off campaigns rather than long-term solutions and victim assistance," concludes Krcmar.
IOM Ukraine's Counter Trafficking Programme works to prevent human trafficking, raise national capacities to fight the phenomenon and protect its victims. Since 2000 more than 8.700 persons received comprehensive assistance under IOM's reintegration programme for victims of trafficking.