Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

New police team to target child trafficking gangs

Anonymously girl looking out got a window Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Residents are being encouraged to report concerns to the police

A new police team has been set up to tackle child trafficking after a major increase in the number of cases.

The move follows concern about the number of Vietnamese youngsters who have sought help in Edinburgh.

The officers will support the work of the National Human Trafficking Unit amid fears children are being used for slave labour.

Det Ch Supt Gary Cunningham said the problem was often "hidden in plain sight within our communities".

Destined for the sex industry

As of 13 November, the National Human Trafficking Unit had received 397 referrals this year, of which 196 (49.3%) were Vietnamese nationals.

And of the 196 cases, 90 claimed to be under the age of 18.

The overall figures are up more than 20% on 2018.

The Daily Record reports that the team was set up following a spate of up to 12 cases in Edinburgh recently in which Vietnamese children approached the authorities for help.

It says the youngsters were destined to work in cannabis farms, nail bars and car washes while others are thought to have been earmarked for the sex industry.

'Duty of care'

Det Ch Supt Cunningham said: "We recognise that the number of people reporting being trafficked from Vietnam to Scotland continues to rise.

"We continue to work with UK and international law enforcement and other agencies to understand the reasons for the increase and to conduct thorough investigations to identify those responsible for trafficking these individuals into Scotland.

"Anyone with concerns about the welfare of someone they suspect of being trafficked should contact the police."

The force declined to comment on the number of officers working on the team.

Councillor Ian Perry, education, children and families convener for Edinburgh City Council, said: "As a local authority we have a duty of care to look after any child when their parent or carer cannot be identified.

"This includes children who arrive unaccompanied in Edinburgh.

"We put in place all appropriate supports for these young people including education, health care and accommodation."

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