June 5, 2006

US worries for sex trafficking victims in Germany

By Saul Hudson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is concerned
thousands of women may be forced to travel to Germany and work
as prostitutes during the football World Cup which starts on
Friday, a senior U.S. official said.

The United States has written to the government and raised
its fears in meetings with officials in Germany, where
prostitution is legal, said John Miller, the State Department
official responsible for the publication on Monday of an annual
report on human trafficking worldwide.

"There are reports of thousands of women being transported
to Germany for sex during the World Cup," he told reporters.

"All the research and evidence available shows that when
you have large flows of women for sexual purposes, there is
going to be trafficking. There is a link between prostitution
and sex trafficking."

With 1 million foreign visitors expected to flood into
Germany from June 9, the likely sex industry boom has created
demand for extra prostitutes who could come mainly from
countries in Eastern Europe with major trafficking problems.

Sex workers in Germany can get health insurance, join a
union and pay into a pension plan. Surveys put the number of
those working as full or part-time prostitutes at around

But thousands of other women are also forced to work in the

German authorities want to crack down on this practice
during the tournament and there are campaigns to boost
awareness of the problem of forced prostitution.

Women's rights advocates in the United States have called
on Germany to limit visas, bar commercial sex operators from
expanding their business during the tournament and increase
"hot lines" for trafficking victims seeking help.

"The German government has said that they are taking
measures to stop trafficking. So we will see what happens,"
Miller said.

But Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who heads a
congressional committee on human rights, was not so diplomatic,
complaining Germany should have been blacklisted in the U.S.
report for doing too little to prevent human trafficking.

"There is a major effort to recruit women from Russia and
Slovak countries. Germany should step up to the plate and
really crack down on this," Smith, who has held a congressional
hearing on the issue, said in a telephone interview.

"Clearly they are not (doing enough)."