Human trafficking

Support for victims and tough action against traffickers.

A Scottish Government strategy will help train professionals to spot the signs of human trafficking and provide new powers to disrupt trafficking activity.

The Scottish Government’s Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy also highlights the need to better publicise support for victims and confirms that public awareness activity will take place later this year. The strategy aims to:

  • Identify victims and support them to safety and recovery
  • Identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity
  • Address the conditions that foster trafficking and exploitation.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson said:

“Developing the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy has included listening to victims themselves, who have provided a unique insight into the physical and psychological damage caused by trafficking. We have emphasised the need to let people know that there is support available for victims, wherever they are recovered in Scotland.  

“Exposing and eradicating these horrific crimes remain high on the agenda, and following the passing of legislation to create an offence of human trafficking with a possible life sentence attached, I am pleased that Police Scotland and the Crown Office will be able apply for new orders to disrupt traffickers’ activity.

“Better awareness among the general public and training for professionals is key to this work, which will be taken forward with a range of partners, including the Police, Crown and third sector. The trafficking and exploitation of adults and children is happening in Scotland today and we all have a role in bringing it to an end. Today’s strategy is the blueprint towards realising that aim and eliminating such appalling activity in Scotland.”

Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC added:

“We welcome the publication of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy. Human trafficking is a serious and complex crime that presents unique challenges to investigators and prosecutors. This strategy will work hand in hand with the tools we have at our disposal to tackle this abhorrent trade, which include the offences under the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.

“Scotland is a country that is hostile to this kind of exploitation and Prosecutors, working with Police Scotland and other law enforcement partners, will play their part in ensuring victims of this crime are protected and have the support they need.”

Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston, Police Scotland's Human Trafficking Unit, added:

“Trafficking is often a hidden crime, happening behind closed doors to people who often don’t realise that they are being exploited or that they are victims of traffickers. Communities are key in helping us identify people who may be the victims of trafficking and exploitation. We are asking people to be aware and to report to us or our partners if they suspect someone may be the victim of traffickers.

“The new strategy highlights the importance of awareness raising and of working in partnership to tackle trafficking and support the victims of exploitation. The Human Trafficking Act strengthens our response to tackling trafficking. Police Scotland will use all tactics at its disposal including working with partners to tackle trafficking and deter those who seek to enslave others.”

John Merralls, Migrant Help’s Senior Operations Manager, also said:

“Migrant Help contributed to the strategy as part of the partnership engagement process. We are fully committed to working in partnerships with all relevant agencies and the Scottish Government to deliver the desired outcomes.

“While increasing numbers of potential victims are being identified every year, we know that there are many more vulnerable people in urgent need of help and we welcome any initiative to reduce this number.”

Bronagh Andrew of Community Safety Glasgow’s trafficking service, TARA said:

“We are pleased to see the identification and disruption of perpetrators clearly reflected in the Scottish Government strategy.   We believe this will be a useful tool to further combat Human Trafficking in Scotland and promote Scotland as a hostile environment for perpetrators of this serious breach of human rights and crimes against people. 

“Women that have been supported by the service highlighted, when consulted on this area of the strategy, that we need to explore the links between their sexual exploitation and our domestic sex industry to disrupt and challenge the demand.”


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