TIME TO STAND AGAINST CHILD TRAFFICKING IN SPORT
Statement by Professor Michel Veuthey Ambassador of the Sovereign Order of Malta to monitor and combat trafficking in persons
High-Level Panel Session on Trafficking in Sports at UNGA 77 New York, 27 September 2022
Introduction I would like to express my gratitude to the organisers of this High-Level Panel. Sport trafficking has received limited attention from Governments and sport organisations. There is an important lack of evidence on the nature and the scale of this serious issue.
1. Estimated numbers
According to the latest ILO-IOM-Walk Free September 2022 Report, there are 50 million slaves today. And this report does not mention trafficking in sports. The US Department of State included trafficking in sports for the first time in their 2020 TIP Report, and estimates that “within Europe’s soccer industry alone, it is estimated there are 15,000 human trafficking victims each year”, mainly from West Africa.
One problem that arises is the difficulty of defining trafficking in sports in the light of the UN’s Palermo Protocol definition: for it to be considered human trafficking, the element of exploitation (the “purpose”) must be present. There are various degrees of exploitation, deception and fraud. Dr. Darragh McGee speaks of a “cocktail” of deception used by agents to recruit young players. The international community is starting to give attention to the problem of trafficking in sports: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions on child labour (138 & 182) all recognize the fundamental rights of the child, which can be linked to trafficking in sports as it particularly targets young athletes. 2017 marks the adoption of the Kazan Action Plan, based on the International Safeguards for Children in Sports, where national Governments commit to link sport policy development to the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Despite this, there are various challenges to addressing sports trafficking:
• First, the absence of reliable data;
• Second, trafficking in sports can be difficult to detect;
• Third, the lack of Government enforcement and poor oversight by sport governing bodies. Preventive measures need to be reinforced at the level of Governments and civil society.
We agree with Mission 89 that sports associations, Governments, border agencies, transport companies, sport agents and other actors must cooperate and also be trained on the issue of trafficking in sports. However, sports organisations and associations alone do not have the power to tackle the issue of trafficking in sports.
The main driving force to combat must come from Governments, as they are the only ones who can legislate and pursue criminals. We would like to thank you for your invitation, wish you success in all your efforts, and we would be happy to further cooperate with you.