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During big sports events, ‘trafficking of women increases’

Church leaders who minister to migrants and victims of human trafficking, have disclosed at a global church gathering in Brazil that trafficking of women for enforced prostitution usually heightens during international sports events.

"It is now public knowledge that organized syndicates have plans to bring in young women, particularly from eastern Europe and from other poor countries, to Germany in time for the World Soccer Cup 2006 [from 9 June to 9 July]," said Vivi Akakpo, West Africa coordinator for the All Africa Conference of Churches.

Akakpo was speaking at a side meeting during the 14-23 February assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre. Along with Elena Timofticiuc, manager of the Ecumenical Association of Churches in Romania, Akakpo and other church leaders agreed to request the WCC to urge Interpol, the international police organization, to thwart the plans of organized crime groups engaged in forced prostitution.

Anticipating heightened forced prostitution during the soccer World Cup 2006, the Diakonisches Werk der EKD (Social Service Agency of the Evangelical Church of Germany) has also launched public awareness-raising initiatives to help address the problem, said a German delegate to the WCC assembly here.

The delegate, who requested anonymity, disclosed to Ecumenical News International that the German social service group has launched a nationwide poster, postcard and paid newspaper statement campaign about preventing forced prostitution during the World Cup.

The group has also established a national network of centres, where victims can seek both free legal support and psychiatric and spiritual counselling. "Forced prostitution has been there, but this usually increases during international events such as the World Cup," said the German delegate, citing another European soccer event some two to three years earlier during which many cases of forced prostitution were reported.

Church leaders attending the meeting urged other denominations to help lobby governments to enact laws and policies that can help protect women from forced prostitution and to offer shelters to victims and help rehabilitate them for their long-term reintegration into society.

They appealed to the WCC: "Take human trafficking seriously; one case is one too many."

(c) Ecumenical News International