THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER - A report by an organization that combats human trafficking is warning that the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver could be exploited by those trying to profit from prostitution.
The Future Group recommends the federal and B.C. governments increase efforts to deter human traffickers and potential sex-trade customers.
"There is a real risk that traffickers will seek to profit from the 2010 Olympics," said Sabrina Sullivan, managing director of the non-partisan, non-governmental organization.
"This event could create an increased demand for prostitution, and also give an easy cover story for victims to be presented as 'visitors' by traffickers."
As he's only just taken on his job, the head of security for the 2010 Olympics said earlier this week that the issue of human trafficking during the Games hasn't hit his radar.
"For me, not, not yet," RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer said in an interview Monday with The Canadian Press.
"I've never seen anything that's come across my desk, but keep in mind it's day two."
The 25-page report entitled "Faster, Higher, Stronger: Preventing Human Trafficking at the 2010 Olympics" outlines measures taken by host countries of recent international sporting events to prevent human trafficking.
The report found that the 2006 Germany FIFA World Cup experienced a short-term increase in demand for prostitution but that extensive prevention campaigns, immigration controls and law-enforcement action likely prevented human traffickers from filling that demand. Instead, local prostitutes from elsewhere in the country were drawn in to host cities.
At the Athens Olympics, where prevention efforts were poor, researchers found a 95-per-cent increase in the number of human trafficking victims identified by the Greek Ministry of Public Safety in 2004.
While numerous factors come into play, a certain correlation between the Olympics and an increase in human trafficking cannot be discounted, the report stated.
"Canada is playing catch-up since authorities have yet to convict a single person for the offence of human trafficking," said Benjamin Perrin, the lead author of the report and an assistant professor in the faculty of law at the University of British Columbia.
The report says human trafficking can be prevented by identifying victims in transit and helping them recover from their ordeal while deciding whether to be witnesses against their traffickers in criminal prosecutions.
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Gordon Campbell have shown concern for human trafficking victims," said Perrin. "They need to commit together to end human trafficking and to ensure that the existing problem is not exacerbated by the 2010 Olympics." The Future Group, founded in 2000, specializes in combating human trafficking and has worked with victims in Southeast Asia, West Africa and Latin America.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press