Human trafficking is closer to home than most Scots think

Increasing number of potential victims being identified in Scotland.

Human trafficking may be closer than most Scots think, a new awareness campaign has revealed.

For the first time, the locations where victims of human trafficking have been identified over the last five years have been pinpointed to challenge perceptions that the crime is confined to Scotland’s major towns and cities.

Research published as part of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy this year showed that 54% don’t believe it is an issue in their local area – however the identified locations include 27 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said:

“Human trafficking is an appalling abuse of human rights. This horrific crime affects the most vulnerable in society and has wide reaching consequences for its victims.  

“Generating awareness that the exploitation of adults and children is happening in Scotland today is key to bringing it to an end. This important campaign is part of a series of measures being implemented to eliminate this terrible crime.  No one should ever be bought or sold.”

Organisations backing the campaign, including Police Scotland, Migrant Help and Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), stressed the importance of bringing the largely hidden crime out into the open as they encouraged the public to report any concerns they may have.

Human trafficking is a complex crime which involves adults and children being traded and exploited for personal benefit. It is an abuse of human rights which causes victims lasting physical and psychological damage.

Trafficking can involve victims being sexually exploited or forced into the role of a servant, or trapped in forced labour, with nail bars, car washes and construction amongst the industries where potential cases in Scotland have been reported.

Latest figures show there were 150 potential victims of trafficking identified in Scotland in 2016 – a 52% increase since 2013. 

The Scottish Government recently published its Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, developed to identify and support victims, identify perpetrators and disrupt activity, and address the conditions which foster trafficking

Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, head of Public Protection for Police Scotland said:

"Tackling human trafficking is a priority for Police Scotland.

“It is exploitation and victimisation of vulnerable people and while challenging and complex to investigate, we are determined to improve the intelligence picture in order to gain a better understanding of trafficking in Scotland and the organised crime groups who are involved.

“We will target those who control, abuse and exploit others by working collaboratively with partners to ensure that Scotland is a hostile environment to this sickening trade.”

Bronagh Andrew, operations manager at TARA, said:

“The TARA Service, run by Community Safety Glasgow, fully supports this innovative campaign. 

“Since 2004, our service has supported women who have been trafficked and sexually exploited within Scotland’s sex industry. Women have been recovered, not just from our cities, but from towns and villages across the length and breadth of Scotland. 

“It is vital that we address the harm caused to vulnerable women, making sure they have better access to protection and support, whilst also tackling the demand that is driving this abuse of human rights.”

John Merralls, senior operations manager at Migrant Help UK, said:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s campaign in tackling the abhorrent crime and abuse of human life that is human trafficking.

“As a support provider for those recovered, we know first-hand the breadth and depth of this blight on society and how this is not isolated to any particular location in Scotland but covers significant areas both urban and rural.

“The stance taken by the Scottish Government clearly demonstrates its commitment to eradicating human trafficking in Scotland and Migrant Help UK are proud to work alongside TARA, providing support to those who have been recovered and empowering these victims to rebuild their often shattered lives so they can go on to establish a positive and successful future for themselves.”

For information on the signs of human trafficking and to report concerns visit the Modern Slavery Helpline.


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