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Advocacy & campaigns

Red card campaign, World Cup 2010: Disqualifying human trafficking in Africa

2010-03-25, Issue 475

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International sporting events have become fertile ground for human trafficking. The documented patterns of flagrant trafficking of children and women for sexual and labor exploitation at these events create a dire picture. “More than 500,000 international visitors are expected in South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, and more than 500 criminal gangs are estimated to be involved in human trafficking for the sex trade in South Africa.”

Made vulnerable by the lack of economic opportunity, political instability, gender inequality and viable migration options, Africans are easy targets for traffickers. “For the past five years, human traffickers have been using the 2010 FIFA World Cup as a ‘bait' to lure people to work in South Africa at construction sites and accommodation establishments, as escorts, stadium marshals and many more … Since 2004, the year SA was chosen to organize the World Cup, human trafficking ‘offices' have been opened at various African countries, where unscrupulous people working as ‘agents' register desperate people dying to get to the ‘final destination' (SA) to seek any form of employment or business opportunities.” [2]Moreover, the fact that the World Cup will be held within Africa and generate huge profits in the already thriving sex industry will intensify the efforts of the traffickers to recruit from African countries to fill the exponentially increasing demand. Indeed, research shows patterns of human trafficking “from as far afield as Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda,” although no preventative efforts have been put in place prior to the event, outside of South Africa and its bordering countries. Another report names South Africa as a destination and transit country for trafficking for sexual exploitation and identifies countries including Angola, Congo (DRC), Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia [3] Burundi and Rwanda [4] as well as various other African countries as recruitment grounds. [5] As a human trafficker recently stated: “This is an African World Cup and every African must somehow benefit from it,” [6] even if that profit is derived from trafficking of other Africans for labor and sexual exploitation.

An important component in addressing human trafficking during and post the World Cup is an effective awareness campaign targeting African countries outside of the immediate vicinity of South Africa where resources have not already been invested by local and international stakeholders to address the issue. "An exploitation-free World Cup will require resources and political will from the South African government and the international community alike," said Luis C de Baca. [7] The “Red Card Campaign World Cup 2010: Disqualifying Human Trafficking in Africa” is therefore a critical awareness strategy with a focus on spreading the message in countries throughout the African continent, not just those bordering South Africa and the host country itself. The symbol of the campaign, a “red card” represents red cards given to soccer players who severely violate the rules of the game, and are disqualified from further participation. By using this symbol, we are sending a simple message, that “human trafficking of Africans has no place at the World Cup 2010 and beyond, and should therefore be disqualified.” This analogy would be easily understood, and therefore effective in attracting the attention of the African public, especially when tied to a sport that is very popular and an event that will have reach into almost every home on the continent. To learn more about human trafficking, and to participate in our campaign, please visit our website

Free Generation International (FGI) is an abolitionist organization committed to addressing capacity gaps in the field of human trafficking and its linkages with gender-based violence. FGI’s Africa initiative focuses on the development of innovative and culturally relevant methods of sensitizing the African public about human trafficking, mobilization of a Pan-African youth movement, creation of an African resource collection and referral database, creation of prevention services to improve skills and life conditions of families in order to reduce their vulnerability to traffickers, practical training for the investigation and surveillance of human trafficking activities and development of victim aftercare infrastructure that is almost non-existent on the continent.

1. Frederico Links. Southern Africa: Human Trafficking And Prostitution to Surge Ahead of 2010 World Cup. Namibian, 2 September 2008
2. Issa Sikiti da Silva. 2010 FIFA World Cup boosts Africa's human trafficking., 15 Jan 2010.
3. Susan Jessop. Sex Trafficking in Women and Children Flourishing in South Africa. European and North American Women Action, 29 April 2003.
4. Counter-Trafficking Information Campaign in South Africa, March 2005,
5. Yazeed Kamaldien. South Africa Linked in the Global Human Trafficking. INT'L WOMEN'S DAY.
6. Issa Sikiti da Silva. 2010 FIFA World Cup boosts Africa's human trafficking., 15 Jan 2010.
7. E. Benjamin Skinner. South Africa's New Slave Trade and the Campaign to Stop It. Times Magazine, 18 January 2010.,9171,1952335-2,00.html#ixzz0cihP6OOE

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