Care and Support for Adult Victims of Trafficking in Human Beings: A Review

A Review examining the care and support needs of victims of human trafficking and what works to meet those needs, including a consideration of Scottish provision.


In Scotland, as elsewhere in the UK (HM Government, 2011) there has been recognition that trafficking in human beings is an issue which spans nations and continents and requires a determined international response[2]. Recent estimates indicate that approximately 75 potential victims of trafficking enter Scotland each year (Equality and Human Rights Commission 2011:23); this is likely to be a significant underestimate and it is acknowledged that this number is on the increase. Kenny McAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, speaking at the launch of the report produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in November 2011 stated:

We have a collective responsibility to tackling the problem here in Scotland. The nature of this crime is such that no one country or agency acting on its own can tackle it effectively. The key to eradicating it is partnership working - whether that is working at a local level or working with international partners to provide a solution. It is what happens on the ground that makes a difference to the individuals involved, be they victims or traffickers themselves. That is why we will continue to encourage and assist the relevant agencies in the work that they do.

This evidence and practice review was commissioned by the Scottish Government to examine the care and support needs of victims of human trafficking and what works to meet those needs. This review is not an evaluation; rather it provides an overview of the identified care and support needs of victims of different forms of human trafficking exploitation; considers good practice in recent adult[3] victim care by identifying different models of care and support in a range of jurisdictions; and considers the extent to which existing evidence is able to provide an indication of what works to meet the needs of different victims. While acknowledging the interconnection of other issues such as provision of compensation and repatriation, this review is limited to the provision of crisis and short to mid term care and support services. The review aims to consider how effectively the needs of different adult victims of trafficking are met in Scotland, on the basis of a review of international evidence; and to highlight any existing gaps in services and support provision.

This report consists of three sections. The first reviews the evidence available on the support and care needs of different groups of adult victims of human trafficking, specifically, those trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. However it should be noted that these categories are not completely distinct. In reality, victims may experience a range of multiple forms of exploitation (for example sexual exploitation to pay off debts, sexual abuse of victims of domestic servitude and labour exploitation).

The second section highlights the components of models of intervention based on an international review of the literature; then considers models of practice in the UK and Scotland with regard to care and support for victims of human trafficking with consideration of responses to victims of different forms of exploitation. Different models of provision, their aims and objectives, are explored in relation to supra-national guidance. The third section concludes the report with consideration of what is considered to be effective and value for money in meeting the needs of victims of human trafficking through care and support provision. This outlines what the available evidence indicates would make the best package of care for victims of human trafficking in its various forms.

The review is based on an extensive search of local, national and international documentary data including research reports, evaluations, practice guides, policy documents and website data collection. Until recently, the main sources of information on trafficking came from reports produced by international organisations and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) often reporting on their experiences in practice and attempting to outline the extent and nature of trafficking. More recently, attention has been given to the support and protection of trafficking victims. However, as this review highlights, there is a distinct lack of evidence-based data which provides a basis from which the most appropriate and/or cost-effective interventions can be determined.

Scottish practice was explored through information obtained from the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA), Migrant Help, Legal Services Agency, Strathclyde Police Vice and Anti-Trafficking Unit[4]. Case-studies were provided by TARA and Migrant Help to highlight the variety of experiences victims of trafficking have endured; this helped to illustrate the complex issues that must be addressed in the provision of support.

Although an original aspiration for this review, it has not been possible to explore costs of different models of provision; in practice very little information was available in this area. The concluding reflections and recommendations are therefore based on the extent to which interventions are able to meet the identified needs of victims.

Defining Trafficking

In 2000, the United Nations defined trafficking in human beings in the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime which includes a Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Palermo Protocol/the Trafficking Protocol). Article 3(a) of that protocol defines trafficking in persons as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purposes of exploitation (UN 2000: 42).

The key aspects of this definition include movement and exploitation. The protocol defines exploitation as, “at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs” (UN2000: 42). Article 2 of the EU Directive on Trafficking includes “exploitation through criminal activity” as a trafficking purpose. The challenges inherent in defining trafficking, impact on the way in which accurate measures of the extent of different forms of trafficking occur.

Legislation relating to trafficking is complex, spread across different statutes including: Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003; Asylum and Immigration Act 2004; Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004; Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006; Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 and Criminal Justice and Licensing Act (Scotland) 2010. Responses to human trafficking in Scotland have been criticised as lacking a ‘coherent approach’ (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2011: 30).

The UK government ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in 2008 and it came into force in April 2009. The government has also elected to opt into the recent EU Directive on human trafficking which is expected to be implemented by 2013 (HM Government, 2011: 10).

There has been significant attention to the issue of trafficking in Scotland in recent years: Amnesty International (2008), Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee (2010), Equality and Human Rights Commission (2011). The latter included an examination of: the identification and treatment of victims; extent and quality of statutory and specialist services and accommodation for victims; and included research commissioned specifically to examine the experiences of victims trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation (Easton and Matthews, 2012).

Dedicated services for victims of trafficking are relatively new in Scotland and continue to develop on an ongoing basis. Similarly, policy and practice has changed significantly over the past few years. Reports on the situation in Scotland (i.e. Amnesty International, 2008) highlighted various concerns and limitations in relation to the availability of services. However, since that report was published in 2008, some of the shortcomings identified have been addressed, while new challenges have emerged (or been identified) in the provision of care and support for victims of trafficking. This highlights the continually changing and developing context as expertise is consolidated and policy and practice improves.


Email: Debbie Headrick

Back to top