Trafficking and exploitation strategy: third annual progress report

Annual progress report and review of the trafficking and exploitation strategy and a report setting out implementation progress in 2019 to 2020.

Section 1: Action Area 1 – Identify victims and support them to safety and recovery

Implementation Structures

Action Area 1 focuses on the victims and survivors of trafficking and exploitation. Victims of trafficking and exploitation are often amongst the most vulnerable and abused members of our society. They can be the victim of multiple crimes and suffer from trauma. Victims of trafficking come from all demographics: young and old, male and female, child and adult, UK or other nationals, from all parts of the world and are identified in all areas of Scotland.

Action Area 1 brings together key stakeholders involved in providing support and assistance to victims of trafficking. The group is focused on public and professional awareness, effective support provision for victims and empowering victims to seek support and assistance.

Action Area 1 is chaired by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and meets on a quarterly basis.

Membership of the group includes:

  • Scottish Government (human trafficking policy, homelessness policy)
  • TARA (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance)
  • Migrant Help
  • Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner's office
  • NHS Health Scotland
  • Scottish Business Resilience Centre
  • Police Scotland
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • Scottish Community Safety Network
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (The Anchor)
  • JustRight Scotland
  • Scottish Guardianship Service
  • Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland (SOHTIS)

Looking back

The second annual progress report highlighted a number of issues that Action Area 1 would consider during 2019/20:

  • Explore with partners the lack of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) of UK nationals.
  • Developing regional partnerships, engaging with the public, third and private sectors and considering where existing structures can be used to deliver this model.
  • Maintain close engagement with relevant partners in relation to reforms of the NRM. Consideration will be given to the benefits of detailed training for First Responders in Scotland covering the NRM reforms.
  • Police Scotland and TARA will develop joint training to First Responders in Scotland, including those working in Criminal Justice Social Work. Police Scotland will also work with TARA to develop a Memorandum of Understanding regarding roles and responsibilities of each agency when engaging with potential victims of trafficking.
  • Longer-term outcomes for survivors of trafficking and exploitation will be explored.
  • A focus will remain on improving awareness of support amongst victims to encourage them to come forward and seek help.

Further detail on these areas can be found within this chapter.

"If I was told I was being taken for sex, of course I would not have gone."

Key outcome: people who encounter victims understand signs, know what to do and have access to specialist advice and support

Victims of human trafficking and exploitation can often be less likely than other parts of society to engage with public and other services – sometimes through a fear of authority based on experiences in other countries or through controlling behaviours exhibited by perpetrators. It is vital that professionals who may come into contact with a victim are able to recognise a range of possible trafficking indicators and understands how to approach the situation and respond appropriately.

Professionals who may come into contact with victims offer an opportunity to spot trafficking indicators and take appropriate action to safeguard the individual. Significant progress has been achieved over the past year in providing clear guidance to public sector staff in local authorities and the NHS. On Anti-Slavery Day 2019, COSLA published guidance[5] for frontline local authority staff and managers about how to deal with human trafficking and exploitation in their local authority area. The guidance seeks to support local authorities in developing good practice to identify, refer and support victims and to disrupt and deter criminal activities. The guidance includes information for staff on spotting the signs of trafficking through to strategic planning and opportunities for partnership working.

Human trafficking occurs across Scotland. Cases have been reported in all of Scotland's 32 local authorities, although some areas see only a few cases. Developing regional partnerships would lead to a more efficient deployment of resources and expertise, as well as dovetailing more effectively with other areas of public provision to support vulnerable groups and tackle criminal enterprises. Changes to the structure of Action Area 2 are set out in Section 2. However, both Police Scotland and COSLA are keen to explore how the creation of three tactical groups can assist, alongside COSLA's guidance to local authorities, in the development of regional partnerships. Consideration will also be given to how regional partnerships interact with other geographical networks looking at other issues.

As a consequence of the health risks associated with human trafficking and exploitation, healthcare staff are in a unique position to access individuals who may otherwise attempt to avoid services. On Anti-Slavery Day, guidance[6] to support healthcare workers in recognising and responding appropriately to victims of human trafficking and exploitation was published. The guidance sets out how to spot the signs of trafficking, the steps to take and procedures to follow if concerns are present, how to access further support and information on the NRM process.

Alongside the guidance documents published over the last year, training opportunities have been developed through TARA's dedicated training officer. TARA has provided bespoke awareness sessions for a diverse range of frontline services, ranging from short awareness raising inputs at team meetings, inputs/workshops at conferences through to full day training events.

Full day multi-agency awareness raising sessions have also been designed and delivered in partnership with the Scottish Guardianship Service and JustRight Scotland. Sessions have taken place across Scotland, including in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Orkney and the Scottish Borders. The training has focused on what frontline workers need to know and includes specific sections on trafficking and exploitation indicators, the NRM, a focus on the gendered nature of exploitation, the impact on survivors, how services can best respond and reinforced the importance of taking a trauma informed approach. Approximately 750 professionals from a wide range of agencies have attended awareness raising sessions.

Hope for Justice have continued to deliver awareness raising sessions around Scotland over the past year with wide engagement across the third sector and in local authorities – approximately 100 organisations have been represented at the training sessions.

The Anchor has delivered a number of teaching and training sessions, including Trauma Enhanced Level training for TARA staff. The Anchor also organised a three day workshop on Narrative Exposure Therapy which is an evidenced based treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in cases with multiple traumas. Current research shows that this intervention is effective for victims of trafficking. The Anchor also hosted the UK Psychological Trauma Society Annual Conference in Glasgow in March 2020. As part of the conference, The Anchor delivered a workshop on promoting psychological recovery for victims of trafficking.

The Scottish Government and other partners including Police Scotland and COSLA have continued to engage with the Home Office on reforms to the NRM. During the last year, the digital NRM system went live for all First Responders and more recently a digital casework system has been introduced.

To support the roll-out of the online referral system, a number of partners have participated in a working group to develop a toolkit for use by NRM First Responders in Scotland. The creation of the toolkit is intended to improve the quality and relevance of information collected within the NRM template and develop understanding of the process by First Responders (many of whom may be unfamiliar with trafficking and exploitation cases). The toolkit will also allow improved victim engagement and information gathering from Potential Victims of Trafficking (PVoT). This should improve the information provided to law enforcement authorities who will then conduct an investigation into the circumstances of the case. The working group met in February and March 2020. The toolkit will be an easy-to-use piece of supplementary guidance alongside more formal resources. We continue to engage with the Home Office to ensure that the NRM works for Scotland and reflects our distinct systems and legislation.

In the second annual progress report, it was noted that, in contrast with other parts of the UK, referrals of UK nationals to the NRM from Scotland were disproportionately low. During the course of 2019, the number of UK nationals referred to the NRM from Scotland has increased, however these numbers are still very small compared to those being identified in other parts of the UK. A number of reasons have been considered for this disparity and while some may in part explain the variation, the group is clear that further work is required on this issue.

The Lord Advocate has issued instructions to prosecutors detailing the test for prosecution that is applied to potential victims of human trafficking or exploitation who are reported to COPFS as accused persons.

Those instructions are complemented by a clearly defined structure to ensure consistency and expertise in decision making. When prosecutors suspect that an accused person may be a victim of trafficking or exploitation they are instructed to submit a report to the National Lead Prosecutor for Human Trafficking and Exploitation. Those reports address whether the test in the Lord Advocate's instructions is met and what further steps are appropriate in light of that conclusion. The number of reports submitted to the National Lead Prosecutor has risen year on year since the implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015.

The National Lead Prosecutor, a highly experienced High Court prosecutor, carefully considers the facts and circumstances of each individual case and makes the final decision on whether the test in the Lord Advocate's instructions has been satisfied. In cases in which the test is satisfied, the National Lead Prosecutor directs that 'No Action' or 'No Further Action' be taken by prosecutors. If the National Lead Prosecutor considers that further information is required before making a final decision, she may direct that the accused person be liberated from custody, if he or she is remanded, pending the outcome of further inquiries.

Between 1 March 2019 and 31 March 2020:

  • 17 cases have been reported to the national lead prosecutor for human trafficking for consideration of taking no action or discontinuing proceedings on the basis of the Lord Advocate's Instructions;
  • In 1 case, no action or no further action was taken on the basis that the test within the Lord Advocate's Instructions was met.

Key outcome: coherent person/child-centred support process that enables victims to recover and build resilience

Following identification, it is vital that victims of human trafficking and exploitation are able to access specialist support in order to begin recovery from the physical, psychological and social impacts that they may have suffered. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been drafted between TARA and Police Scotland, setting out the roles and responsibilities of each agency when engaging with potential victims of trafficking. Work is ongoing towards completion.

The Scottish Government continues to provide funding to TARA and Migrant Help to support adult trafficking victims across Scotland. TARA specifically supports female victims of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, reflecting the particular impacts on this group of survivors and upholding gender equality obligations under the Council of Europe Convention Article 17. Migrant Help supports all other adult trafficking victims.

Funding has been significantly increased for both organisations in financial year 2020/21: a 26% increase for TARA to £581,252 and a 40% increase for Migrant Help to £922,065. This increase reflects the considerable rise in the number of individuals entering the NRM process who are being supported in Scotland. Referrals increased by 125% between 2018 and 2019 (from 228 in 2018 to 512 in 2019) and this has necessitated a need for increased accommodation capacity and staffing resource to maintain specialist support.

TARA Service user consultation

As part of the ongoing commitment to ensure that the lived experience and voices of survivors of human trafficking and exploitation being supported in Scotland are heard, the Scottish Government provided specific funding to TARA to facilitate a service user consultation on three key issues:

  • The trafficking process and women's needs before, during and after being trafficked;
  • Access to services, knowledge and impact of TARA's services; and
  • Input by survivors of trafficking into local and national government strategies and action plans.

To encourage the sharing of views, the session was independently facilitated. Nine women supported by TARA agreed to participate, bringing experience of many common forms of exploitation associated with human trafficking, including commercial sexual exploitation, being used as drug mules, forced labour, and domestic servitude.

Only three of the women taking part understood what 'trafficking' was prior to being trafficked and did not think it would happen to them. None of the women realised they were being trafficked at the start of the process. All women stated that they had been 'tricked' into their situation – sometimes by people they trusted such as family relations or friends. A number of women highlighted 'a women's place' and other issues including:

  • the pressure to provide for others
  • desperation to leave their country of origin
  • high levels of poverty, inequality and violence

These factors were key in being taken "advantage of" by people they trusted or knew. Once they realised what was happening to them, all women felt they were unable to do anything about it. The majority of women came to Scotland via London. During a discussion about how anti-trafficking information could be made accessible to women earlier, one woman noted that she had not been left alone at any point in her journey so it would have been impossible to access this.

A number of women had engaged with other services before being referred to TARA and noted the stress of having to recount their experiences. All women stated that the information they were given from other agencies about TARA was limited but the message was consistent in that TARA would help them. In terms of the practical support provided by TARA, women positively highlighted somewhere safe to stay, financial assistance, advocacy and access to other services. All women agreed that the feeling of safety created by TARA was vital for their engagement and this enabled a sense of understanding, trust and support which allowed women to be open and honest about their emotional and practical needs. All participants said they would recommend TARA to others.

All women felt they should have a say in policy, strategy and action planning at both local and national levels, noting that they have personal experience of the trafficking process which can help influence actions. When asked what they would need to help them provide input, they suggested English classes, support to attend a meeting/discussion and raised concerns about protection from traffickers. Based on their experiences from other countries, some women also associated police with government and noted concerns around trust of public agencies. When asked what could be done to stop/reduce trafficking, responses concentrated on prevention, the criminal justice response and training and awareness.

As part of their person-centred support process, TARA have begun issuing Recovery Books to all newly referred women, with a particular focus on those entering into TARA accommodation. The book explains in more detail the role of TARA, their expectations of women (including accommodation 'rules'), paperwork for future recovery plans and reviews, individual safety plans, individual key contacts and useful items such as a 'money explainer', maps, puzzles and mindfulness 'colouring' pictures.

"TARA took us to the Safari Park. It was a lovely time to just be a normal person and to feel part of something. When you have had our life that is very, very important. You may not understand this"

TARA staff and clients have found this helpful in providing women with reassurance at their first meeting with TARA, especially when they are available in the woman's language (available in English, Romanian, Vietnamese, Albanian and Mandarin, for other languages TARA translate as required). The books support women to better understand the role of TARA and others.

Through experience, TARA have observed that many women are unable to fully understand their legal rights in the early stages as they are focused on their basic needs such as safe accommodation, financial support, health, NRM/immigration concerns and their safety needs, including from perpetrators. Women may also be unable to read in their own language so TARA ensures regular verbal explanations and reinforcement of rights alongside individual recovery plans throughout the period of support, which has proven to be essential.

All trafficking cases where the victim is under the age of 18 are treated as child trafficking and victim support is provided through child protection processes by local authorities. This is described in more detail in the chapter on child trafficking.

Migrant Help, in partnership with West of Scotland Regional Equality Council (WSREC), operated a garden project over 8 weeks during the summer of 2019. The project involved clients immersing themselves in weeding, composting, and planting the garden with plants for decoration as well as for food. Each session was attended by 8-12 clients, and sessions were received very well. The clients especially enjoyed learning the English words for some basic vegetables and being outside in a safe environment was also beneficial. Those who attended all expressed disappointment that the sessions did not continue for longer and Migrant Help are exploring the possibility of running the project again during 2020.

Migrant Help and Brightwork Recruitment

Migrant Help have been working collaboratively with Brightwork Recruitment, who place value on helping vulnerable individuals into work.

Ben (not his real name), an EU citizen, was living with his wife and young family in an EU country. A contact put Ben in touch with someone who offered him employment and accommodation in the UK. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for Ben to gain employment and support his family, and so he made his way here. Once here, an unknown male escorted him to an address in Glasgow. Before long, Ben was being forced under threat of violence to open bank accounts for use by a criminal gang.

He was ordered to travel to various cities around the UK and open bank accounts on behalf of the gang. Eventually, Ben managed to escape the situation. He sold what belongings he had and changed his phone number several times in order to avoid being tracked by the gang. Ben was eventually able to complete a National Referral Mechanism application with police and he entered the support services of Migrant Help.

As well as providing Ben with the emotional, practical and financial support needed for him to start rebuilding his life, Migrant Help linked Ben with Brightwork Recruitment and assisted Ben in finding a job working in a local supermarket. Ben completed a 16 week trial, didn't miss a single day of work and was soon given extra hours due to his competence. Ben was subsequently made a full-time member of staff at the supermarket.

However, Ben struggled to open a bank account as he had fraud markers, immigration status tests and financial crime alerts registered against him. There were also active accounts, in his name, being used for criminal purposes. HSBC, partnering with Migrant Help, offered to place him in their Survivor Bank pilot. This was a new and pioneering initiative designed to help victims of human trafficking by allowing them to open a bank account despite markers against their name (the pilot has now been more extensively rolled out by HSBC).

Ben was delighted at the support he received through the Survivor Bank pilot, and he was able to open a bank account. He stated: 'The difference this is going to make to me and my family is huge. I have waited a good few years for this to happen and was at the point of thinking we would never have a UK bank account after what had happened to me".

JustRight Scotland is working with Non-Governmental Organisations in Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain and the European Network of Migrant Women on a project called ASSIST: Gender Specific Legal Assistance and Integration Support for Third Country National Female Victims of Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation.[7]

This project allows JustRight Scotland to focus on the long term integration needs of trafficked women recovering from sexual exploitation as well as empowering survivors to play a leadership and mentoring role in the response to human trafficking at an operational, strategic and policy level in Scotland. Through the ASSIST Project, and with the support of the Scottish Government, JustRight Scotland has been able to:

  • Provide free weekly confidential legal surgeries for female survivors of trafficking for sexual exploitation at the offices of TARA, complementing funding provided for these surgeries by the Scottish Government. The surgeries offer women, at all stages of their recovery, an opportunity to meet with a female specialist lawyer for advice on a broad range of issues;
  • Provide free legal representation on legal issues related to a woman's integration needs in areas such as citizenship, identification issues, family reunion and compensation where legal aid is not available;
  • Created a group of women survivors of sexual exploitation to contribute to policy and research work:
    • This group has contributed to the ongoing review of Scotland's human trafficking strategy;
    • They have met with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in Scotland about this funding and project: and
    • They have also contributed to a recent Scottish Government written consultation response on the new 'duty to notify' the police about trafficking concerns, as well as a government information leaflet on compensation.
  • Commenced a process of developing a peer to peer resource and network for female survivors of sexual exploitation.

Future plans include the design and dissemination of information material by survivors for survivors as well as events to promote the role of survivors in our anti-trafficking responses.

This project completes at the end of 2020. The ultimate aim is to ensure that we continue to respond to longer term integration needs of survivors of human trafficking as well as ensuring that the experience and voices of survivors continue to shape future responses to trafficking in Scotland.

Key outcome: victims are aware of support and trust it enough to ask for help

As outlined during the TARA service user consultation, victims of trafficking may be distrustful of authorities as a consequence of previous experiences in other countries where engaging with police has led to further exploitation rather than protection. This is challenging as these feelings can impede victims from seeking help to escape their situation.

In the second annual progress report it was noted that the Scottish Government had agreed to provide funding to TARA to ensure the legal advice clinic, run in partnership with JustRight Scotland, could continue during 2019/20. This has enabled early and effective legal intervention for women early on in their recovery, allows a wider range of legal advice to be accessed beyond immigration including applying for Criminal Injuries Compensation and can ensure that women are able to access long term advice when they are no longer in receipt of specialised support.

Between July 2019 and March 2020, 30 women were referred to the legal advice surgery. Advice was provided on a wide range of issues, using interpreting services as required, including the NRM, Immigration, Criminal Injuries Compensation, Family Reunion, Domestic Abuse, social media abuse, housing, criminal justice process as a victim and witness, repatriation and human trafficking and criminal exploitation.

TARA and JustRight Scotland legal surgery

M was referred to the TARA Service in the summer of 2017 by her MSP. As a historical survivor of trafficking for child sexual exploitation (CSE) she had presented to the constituency office with complex immigration and housing issues. TARA provided short term advocacy with social work services, referred her to The Anchor service and helped her to access legal advice.

M was granted leave to remain, and her eviction from social housing was prevented. M attended The Anchor and was able to resume her college course. TARA closed M's case in the winter of 2017. In August this year, M contacted TARA seeking some advice as an abusive ex-partner had been trying to contact her, re-establish contact with children and she wanted to move house to get away from him. As she was not at immediate risk from the ex-partner, TARA arranged for her to access legal advice at the drop-in the following week.

M was provided with legal advice on her housing situation, contact with children and family law. In addition she was referred on to the Scottish Women's Rights Centre by JustRight Scotland who are continuing to provide support. M found the legal advice very helpful and reassuring and understood that she had protections that meant she did not have to leave her home, her employment and unsettle her children.

TARA were pleased that M had felt able to get in touch with the service asking for assistance and that, in partnership with JustRight Scotland, were able to provide quick access to legal advice that left M feeling much safer.

Migrant Help have also continued working in partnership with Jain, Neil and Ruddy Solicitors (Glasgow), to offer a legal drop-in clinic for service users. The clinic offers clients free legal advice, specially tailored to their needs, including advice on human trafficking and the NRM, the asylum system, preparing for asylum screening interviews, and other information as required. Between April 2019 and March 2020, 64 clients accessed legal advice at the fortnightly clinic.

In partnership with JustRight Scotland, Migrant Help are also offering a new legal clinic to clients, providing service users with advice about criminal injuries compensation and assistance with immigration issues. The clinic has run monthly in January and February 2020 and has been fully subscribed on both occasions.

The charity SOHTIS is committed to ensuring the recovery and long term wellbeing of survivors of human trafficking in Scotland. SOHTIS work collaboratively to support survivors to rebuild their lives, minimise the risk of re-trafficking, empower their integration into society and celebrate their contribution to Scotland's future. English speakers who are not UK nationals are amongst the groups at highest risk of trafficking therefore identifying effective ways to raise awareness amongst them is a priority in reducing risk and identifying exploitation. The English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher often is the single regular contact with this cohort, having up to six hours a week engagement with learners. They therefore have the unique ability to develop trusting relationships and mutual respect allowing them to identify specific vulnerabilities around exploitation and supporting their learners to build resilience and increase confidence. As a result, ethnic minority groups can be empowered to recognise trafficking, reject it in all its forms and seek help when needed. A study has highlighted that ESOL classes can be vital to trafficked victims gaining confidence and independence, developing social networks and moving towards mainstream education and employment. SOHTIS launched the first human trafficking ESOL resource in Scotland at the Annual Conference of the National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults (NATECLA) in November 2019. This is the first in a series of resources and is available to download free from their website.[8] Following positive feedback and demand from across the UK, SOHTIS will be working with a focus group of learners and practitioners to develop further lesson plans and resources.

Challenges remain in ensuring that victims of trafficking are aware of the support available to them in Scotland. The Anchor Service asked for feedback on a number of issues from trafficking survivors currently receiving psychological support. This indicated that awareness of support services was relatively low – particularly before survivors were brought to safety. Limited awareness of specialist support services within other agencies was also noted by those participating in TARA's service user consultation and is an issue that Action Area 1 will consider moving forward.

SOHTIS have developed 'Project Light', a new strategic and operational approach to identifying victims of trafficking in Scotland. Beginning in Edinburgh and scaling to other parts of the country, Project Light will work alongside frontline service providers who engage with groups at risk of trafficking. Providing 'on the ground' practical support, Project Light aims to build knowledge and confidence in spotting the signs of trafficking. The Project anticipates an increase in the identification and recovery of potential victims and will provide advocacy to ensure they receive the support they need.

"I appreciate all the help & support that has been given by MH. I don’t know what I would have done without this support. Thank you very much."

Encouraging victims and others to spot the signs of human trafficking and setting out clearly what support can be accessed is a key focus of Action Area 1. A Scottish Government media campaign is planned for later this year and more information can be found in Section 3.

Looking Forward

Referrals to the NRM have been rising in Scotland. Further work is needed to understand what is driving these increases in different sectors: more effective policy; increased awareness; increases in victim numbers or other reasons. Furthermore, work is required to ensure our collective understanding of which demographic groups need increased attention. Greater understanding of the data available and the internal and external factors driving any trends will be a key focus moving forward.

Develop guidance into tangible widespread and embedded local practice. Important steps have been taken to develop guidance, through COSLA and the NHS, to develop systems and support frontline staff and managers. The next phase of work will require driving that process forward into tangible and effective steps in local areas that chime with the needs and practices of frontline staff.

Develop awareness of support services amongst victims and also within professional settings.

Develop further policy interventions at local and national level that can strengthen the fight against trafficking and support victims, including in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK's decision to leave the European Union.

Consider how survivor engagement can be maintained and strengthened to facilitate direct contributions to local and national policy and decision making.



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