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Trafficking at Major Sporting Events Focus of Subcommittee Hearing

On January 27, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing, “Lessons Learned from Super Bowl Preparations: Preventing International Human Trafficking at Major Sporting Events.

With the Super Bowl scheduled to take place on February 2, followed quickly by the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the World Cup in Brazil in June, the issue of human trafficking at major sporting events is timely. In his opening remarks, Chair Chris Smith (R-NJ) noted that “more than 10,000 exploited women and girls were trafficked to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010.”

With regard to international sporting events, Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State, said, “In many cases, major sporting events require massive capital improvement and infrastructure projects, creating a huge demand for cost-effective labor and materials. In regions with sizable migrant populations, much of this labor force will cross at least one border to reach the job site. Once the event takes place, the locations become massive destinations for travel and tourism. At every step of this process, we see characteristic vulnerabilities to human trafficking. Addressing those risks means putting safeguards in place every step of the way. What protections exist for these laborers? What methods are being used to screen migrant workers who may be victims of trafficking, including through debt bondage that resulted from paying hefty recruitment fees in their home countries? How are law enforcement personnel and partners in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry being trained to identify potential trafficking situations – not just child sex trafficking, but that of adults as well? These are questions governments should be grappling with every day, and especially when a major gathering is on the horizon. And these are some of the specifics we’re watching for as we approach additional major sporting events.”

“This year, thousands of people will make the trip to the New York City metropolitan area for Super Bowl XLVIII,” said Letty Ashworth, general manager of Global Diversity, Delta Airlines. Ms. Ashworth continued, “As New York’s largest carrier and official airline sponsor of the Seahawks, Delta will not only transport the Seahawks to the game, but we will carry many of the thousands of fans who will attend the Super Bowl to the region from dozens of points in our extensive global network that covers six continents. Delta’s 80,000 employees worldwide – over 8,000 of whom live and work in the New York City region alone – have received training and are in prime positions to be eyes and ears to spot potential cases of human trafficking and point them out to law enforcement for action.” Ms. Ashworth explained Delta’s role in combatting human trafficking, saying, “Beyond setting appropriate expectations for our thousands of employees Delta is participating in a number of initiatives both internally and externally to help highlight and combat human trafficking. In 2011, Delta became the first U.S. carrier to sign the End Child Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking (ECPAT) International Code of Conduct for Tourism. ECPAT is part of an international network with ties to the United Nations’ Children’s Fund and the World Trade Organization and is operating in more than 70 countries, aimed at eliminating the commercial exploitation of children.”

The following witnesses also testified:

  • Maria M. Odom, chair, Blue Campaign, Department of Homeland Security;
  • Polly Hanson, chief of police, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK);
  • Nancy Rivard, president and founder, Airline Ambassadors International;
  • Carol Smolenski, executive director, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking-USA; and
  • Holly Smith, survivor of trafficking and anti-trafficking advocate.
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