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Nuns warn of heightened World Cup trafficking risk

Residents observe the Football for Hope Festival 2014 in Caju slum in Rio de Janeiro May 20, 2014. (REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

VATICAN CITY: Roman Catholic nuns backed by Pope Francis Tuesday voiced fears over increased risks of human trafficking, exploitation of workers, forced prostitution and sexual tourism at the football World Cup in Brazil next month.

The nuns, whose campaign is also backed by the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican, announced an international campaign called “Play in Favour of Life – Denounce Human Trafficking,” on the risks they say will be associated with the June 12-July 13 tournament.

“We need to make people conscious of what happens on the margins of big world events such as the FIFA World Cup and the suffering of those who are trafficked,” said Sister Carmen Sammut, a Maltese nun who is also one of the campaign’s organizers.

Sammut said the initiative had the full backing of Pope Francis, an avid Argentine football fan who has called several conferences at the Vatican to study ways of combating human trafficking.

Sister Gabriella Bottani, an Italian nun who works in Brazil, said that human traffickers and others took advantage of large events such as the World Cup to exploit the most vulnerable.

She said young people from the countryside are often lured with the promise of a job and later forced into prostitution. Children in rural areas may be kidnapped and taken to cities hosting the venues and forced to beg, she said.

The nuns said statistics showed that sexual exploitation rose 30 percent in connection with the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and 40 percent at the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 21, 2014, on page 11.

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