“You hear that the Olympic Games are coming to town; something which should make you happy. Instead it destroys your home – and with it, your childhood.”
The stories of Rio’s children were laid bare in front of members of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights in Brussels on Wednesday.
Our Strategic Alliance Officer, Andrea Florence, took part in a debate on sport, human rights and the 2016 Olympics, along with representatives from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty UK and Nosso Jogo Fairplay Initiative.
Andrea’s speech to members told the story of 12-year-old Naomy’s eviction from her home in Vila Autodromo. She also outlined the treatment of over 77,000 residents of other Rio favelas, many of them children, who have been forcibly removed from their homes due to the Olympics.
Andrea also lifted the lid on ‘clean-up operations’ ordered by the Rio government which are intended to ‘cleanse’ Rio of street children when the world’s visitors and media descend on the city in August.
This began before the World Cup in 2014, when children were taken to young offenders’ units without having committed an offence. Some suffered police abuse and violence. Others disappeared altogether.
Now, ahead of the Games, it’s happening again. More than 400 police officers have been deployed near Olympic venues (in Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and Aterro do Flamengo) and Secretary of Government data shows 1,400 arrests and 200 homeless people removed already.
Children Win urged the European Parliament to monitor these areas of Rio during and after the Olympics, to make sure rights of children and adolescents are not further abused.
We also asked members to monitor the agreement made between the municipal authorities and the residents of Vila Autodromo, to ensure promises to re-house the 20 remaining families on the site are fulfilled.
“It is time sport governing bodies played by the rules,” said Andrea. “It is our aim that Brazil’s bitter experience never happens again.
“We love sport. But a global sporting event can only be truly successful and legitimate of it does not harm the hosting population – including its children.”
Her powerful words were echoed by Minky Worden from Human Rights Watch, who said: “The Olympic motto is ‘faster, higher, stronger’, but for too long, there’s been a chasm between these aspirational words and the ugly reality on the ground.
“All sport bodies need to make an explicit commitment to protect human rights from the top down and integrate policies and monitoring into the procedures. Human rights need to be written into the host city contract, in clear and in forcible language.”
(Watch Minky’s full speech here.)
Jonathan Cornejo from Amnesty UK spoke about the marked increase in police killings ahead of Mega Sporting Events, which is a pattern being repeated currently in Rio. One in five homicides in the city are perpetrated by police. Most victims are young, black men. Many are children.
Finally, Martin Kainz from Nosso Jogo took a wider view on MSEs and human rights. “Everybody is responsible, to different extents: the sports federations, the states and cities, the companies as well as the media, the audience, political authorities and civil society,” he said.