The Scottish Government intends to merge and strengthen existing criminal law against human trafficking, improve the status of and support for victims and give statutory responsibility to relevant agencies to work with the Scottish Government to develop and implement a Scottish anti-trafficking strategy.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has built on a member’s bill by Labour MSP Jenny Marra for a Scottish anti-human trafficking strategy. Marra said it could potentially mean that Scotland would have some of the world’s most robust and effective legislation on trafficking. Marra then went on to say that “the unique thing about these Scottish proposals is that they drill down into our public services to make our communities an unwelcome place for trafficking.’’  MacAskill opinions echo that of Marra’s and said the Government’s bill would make Scotland “hostile” for traffickers. The Scottish Government are ‘determined to develop legislation that gives Scottish police, prosecutors and other agencies the powers to make Scotland a hostile environment for human traffickers, but also helps to identify and support the needs of victims.”, MacAskill said. The Scottish Government will continue to work with the UK and Northern Irish Governments as they develop their Bill proposals.

Charities such as Migrant Help and UNICEF have both commented on the matter and it is a huge step forward in the fight against trafficking.  Robert McCrea, chief executive officer of Migrant Help, said that “Migrant help have been continuously impressed by the way the Scottish Government approaches issues of human trafficking and modern day slavery. Victims support has always been caring and sophisticated. Therefore, we understand why the Scottish Government would wish to formalise this work by compounding the best practice and experience into a bill proposal.”  Similarly, UNICEF UK’s deputy executive director Anita Tiessen said, “It is encouraging to see a Bill that will help focus attention on securing and protecting the rights of people who have been trafficked. The exec director then went on to say that ‘’children account for over 20% of all those who have been trafficked in Scotland. Children who are trafficked are often sexually exploited or forced into slavery and the physical and psychological scars can last a lifetime. We want to see the Human Trafficking Bill ensuring that trafficked children receive the specialised counselling and support they so desperately need. It must ensure that children receive access to education and support services, to help them make vital decisions about their future.”

In order to gain a clearer understanding of how trafficking victims are affected, MacAskill visited a “safe house” operated by the charity Migrant Help (as mentioned above) where victims of trafficking can find refuge. One victim is a Ugandan man known as John* (name changed) who paid a man $3,000 to help him leave Uganda, then flew to Scotland.  John was locked in a room for a fortnight and it then became obvious that he was to be forced into sexual slavery. He managed to escape the ordeal and spent a night on the streets before he was able to find help. MacAskill said that by “hearing first-hand the terrible histories victims of trafficking have, only serves to reinforce the need for robust legislation.’’ Another example concerns ‘client G’, a Romanian who was promised work in a packing factory and was told he would receive minimum wage, accommodation, food and his flight to the UK would be paid for. However, when he arrived, his Romanian identification documents were taken from him and he was taken to a chicken processing factory where he worked 10 hour shifts. If he complained, he was threatened. Some 6 weeks later, he managed to escape. He was then forced to sleep on the streets and fend for himself.  As a result of being found by the Police, he was able to access Migrant Help’s trafficking support services. 

Based on this evidence alone, it appears that modern day slavery is rife and is happening 24/7 and although Scotland have made some positive steps to combat trafficking, the issue of trafficking is still a global problem that requires a global solution. The fight is far from over but since many issues have now been brought to public attention, awareness of the situation is raised and eventually, more legislation will be introduced across borders to put an end to this.

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