Could the Olympic Games become a breeding ground for human traffickers?

A Scene from ‘Act Like It Never Happened’ (Photo courtesy of Dominic Hedges)

A new play by a young East Ham playwright exposes a seedier kind of business that could benefit from the Olympics.

Act Like It Never Happened by Dominic Hedges tells the story of a human trafficking ring set up in London to benefit from the mass market the Games could provide.

Dominic Hedges wants the play to expose the international nature of the problem. He says that the Olympics can have a positive impact on the area.

But he worries that this means that these ‘very real issues are in danger of being swept under the carpet’……

The play is supported by Stop the Traffik. The anti-traffiking charity says they have uncovered evidence of gangs moving women to the East End in the hope of capitalising on an increased demand for sexual services during the 2012 Olympics.

The government estimates that 4,000 sex workers are illegally trafficked into the UK each year. And for a long time anti-trafficking campaigners have been warning that those figures could increase sharply over the Olympic period. Just last week, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper renewed calls for the government to take a tougher stance on the problem as the Games approach.

‘Act Like It Never Happened’ (Photo courtesy of Dominic Hedges)

Dominic Hedges says that past Olympic games and the World Cup in South Africa attracted increased human trafficking.

However evidence of trafficking, based on past sporting events is often disputed. And the assertion is contested by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who say they have found no link between sporting events and sex trafficking. They even claim that focusing on the link between the Olympics and sex trafficking could actually harm the victims. Because as the police crack down on the practice, those victims may be less likely to come forward.

But charities say its not just sex trafficking- its a problem of human trafficking as a whole, whether that means sexual exploitation, street begging and pickpocketing or forced labour. Dominic Hedges agrees….

Act Like It Never Happened is on at The Space until the end of the week.

We’ll be exploring this further when we talk to Paul Donohoe from Anti-Slavery International.

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