America’s most famous horse race is a hotspot for human trafficking


More than 30 arrests or citations relating to human trafficking were issued during the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

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Law enforcement have told Kentucky Derby attendees to be on high alert for victims of human trafficking at next week’s event.

Over 150,000 people are expected to flood into Louisville, Kentucky to see the world-famous horse race. Major sporting events are a huge business opportunity for human traffickers. Especially events that attract mostly male crowds from interstate and overseas.

Kentucky’s attorney general’s office says possible signs that someone is a human-trafficking victim include: appearing malnourished or suffering from physical injuries, avoiding eye contact, sounding scripted or rehearsed in social interactions or showing signs of a loss of time and place.

More than 30 arrests or citations relating to human trafficking were issued during the 2018 race, Kentucky’s Attorney General Andy Beshear said.

A study of 95 substantiated trafficking cases by University of Louisville in Kentucky between 2013 and 2018 found that 87 per cent were female and most were trafficked by a family member.

It’s not just horse racing that attracts human trafficking

It’s estimated that over 21 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking.

In January, in the lead up to the 53rd US Super Bowl, 33 people were arrested on sex trafficking charges in Atlanta, Georgia.

Trafficked humans are not only being transported to major sporting events - they’re helping create them with exploitative labour.

An Amnesty International investigation found that facilities built in Qatar in the run up to the 2022 World Cup were largely built with trafficked labor from surrounding countries.

Workers were lured to the country with the promise of work, underpaid or not paid at all, stripped of passports and often left stranded in the country.

Where does Australia stand?

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) reports that in 2017 alone, there were more than 33 people referred to the Support for Trafficked People program in Australia.

Of those referred, 75 per cent were women and more than a quarter were children or underage.

Sexual exploitation was the most prevalent reason for human trafficking in 2014 but since then the most common reasons have become forced labour, domestic servitude and forced marriages.

In 2014, Australia’s National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Slavery was implemented, with $150 million provided since then to combat human trafficking.

It performs on four principals:

  • Preventing practices before they occur,

  • Detecting and investigating possible circumstances of human trafficking and slavery,

  • Ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice,

  • Protecting and supporting those who have experienced human trafficking and slavery.

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