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Opinion: Stop human trafficking before World Cup

South Africa tourism industry and international travelers can help stop the exploitation.

Girls stand outside shacks made from metal opposite Vicky's B&B in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township, Feb. 25, 2010. Vicky Ntozini has run her guesthouse in one of South Africa's biggest and poorest townships since 1999. Like a handful of other B&Bs that have sprung up in townships, Vicky's hopes to attract tourists during the World Cup in June and July. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

NEW YORK — With the start of the FIFA World Cup Finals quickly approaching, it’s easy for soccer fans to get caught up in the excitement of the matches, the grandeur of new stadiums and the rush of people visiting South Africa from around the world. But the influx of half a million tourists will have the unintended consequence of creating new opportunities for human trafficking — a practice that is unfortunately found in nearly every country around the world.

The United Nations estimates that 12 million people are victims of human trafficking, including forced labor and sexual exploitation, every year. Children are disproportionally affected by this practice, vulnerable victims to child prostitution and sex tourism.

Unfortunately, large events like the World Cup, which attract a considerable number of people to a limited area for a short time, often bring with them a short-term increase in the demand for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation as well as forced labor. The event may also inadvertently facilitate the entry of trafficked persons as visitors to South Africa before they are moved to other cities or countries where they are further exploited.

But the situation is not hopeless. As an active partner in helping corporations conduct their business in a socially responsible manner, Christian Brothers Investment Services has spent the past year, in conjunction with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, learning about human trafficking and devising ways investors, shareholders, corporations and individuals can help combat it.

Hotels and other lodgings are in the unique position to stop these tragic crimes and we have urged them through a letter-writing campaign to the CEOs of major hotel chains to take steps in the days leading up to the World Cups to help prevent human trafficking.

In the letter, we encourage hotels to teach their staff to be observant of potential victims; build alliances with police, anti-trafficking organizations and child welfare agencies; provide information to guests about the laws and penalties imposed for trafficking and support organizations that help the victims of these tragic crimes.