Trafficking victims found in remote Scottish communities

Woman with head in hands - generic image
Image caption The Scottish government has launched a campaign to raise awareness of human trafficking

Victims of human trafficking have been identified in small and remote Scottish communities including Alva, Annan and Fort William, ministers have said.

The Scottish government laid out where victims of trafficking had been located over the past five years to illustrate how close to home the issue can be.

All of Scotland's major cities feature on the list, alongside smaller towns.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said human trafficking was "an appalling abuse of human rights".

The government has launched a new awareness campaign to challenge the perception that trafficking is confined to Scotland's major towns and cities.

Research published earlier in 2017 showed that 54% of people did not think it was an issue in their local area, but victims have been identified in 27 out of Scotland's 32 local authorities over the last five years.

Image caption A map has been published showing where victims of human trafficking have been identified

Latest figures show there were 150 potential victims of trafficking identified in Scotland in 2016 - a 52% increase since 2013. Bosses at the Glasgow-based Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance said they were located "across the length and breadth of Scotland".

As well as major settlements like Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Perth and Stirling, locations where victims were found included:

  • Aberdeen
  • Alva
  • Annan
  • Appin
  • Ayr
  • Bathgate
  • Dumfries
  • Dundee
  • Dunfermline
  • East Kilbride
  • Edinburgh
  • Falkirk
  • Fort William
  • Glasgow
  • Hamilton
  • Inverness
  • Kirkcaldy
  • Larkhall
  • Orkney
  • Perth
  • Stirling
  • Stonehaven
  • Kilmarnock
  • Livingston
  • Elgin
  • Paisley
  • Airdrie

Human trafficking is a complex crime which involves adults and children being traded and exploited for personal benefit, and can include people being forced into labour or sexually abused. Victims can suffer lasting physical and psychological damage.

A BBC Scotland investigation in May found Eastern European crime gangs repeatedly forcing trafficked women into sexual exploitation and sham marriages in Scotland.

Mr Matheson said the "horrific crime" generally targets the most vulnerable in society, and can have "wide-reaching consequences for its victims".

He said: "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."

Det Supt Stuart Houston, who heads Police Scotland's Human Trafficking Unit, said tackling trafficking was a priority for the force.

He said: "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 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."

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