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‘We should all be doing more’: Politicians call for more action to clamp down on human trafficking

Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire.
Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire.

Perthshire politicians say “we should all be doing more” to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery across Scotland.

A new investigation by DC Thomson’s Impact team, called ‘The Exploited’, uncovers the hundreds of human trafficking and modern slavery cases which are happening all across the country, with organised crime groups running marketplaces for humans to be exploited and sold for sex and labour.

In 2020 there were 387 victims of human trafficking reported in Scotland, however some campaigners think the true number could be as high as 3,870.

In the investigation, Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi, head of Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit, believes this is happening on our doorsteps and says the victims are “hiding in plain sight”.

‘It is happening in towns and cities across these isles’

The investigation by DC Thomson’s Impact reporters included the story of a Romanian woman called ‘Cristina’, who was taken to Perth under the false promise of working in a meat processing factory.

In reality, she was raped every single day and forced to clean for no pay.

Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire, says everyone can do more to help uncover human trafficking, and urges any victims not to stay silent.

He said: “There is a tendency to think that human trafficking is something which happens in far-off cities, but the reality is that it is happening in towns and cities across these isles.

Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire

“The recently reported case from Perth is certainly not the first, and sadly not likely to be the last to darken our doorstep locally.

“We should absolutely all be doing more to tackle the issue of human trafficking.

“The Scottish Government introduced new legislation in 2015 which really strengthened the existing laws around human trafficking, but we must go further and ensure that everything possible is done to prevent this utterly barbaric crime, which devastates families across the globe.

“On a local level, if anyone has any suspicions that people are being held against their will, they should raise this with the Police Scotland National Human Trafficking Unit or make contact with the Modern Slavery Helpline.

“Please do not remain silent.

“The smallest signs could signal a much more serious problem, and by reporting them, those who are guilty of such offences can be brought to justice.”

‘The details revealed in this investigation are utterly harrowing’

John Swinney, deputy first minister and MSP for Perthshire North, says it is important support services are offered to anyone who has been a victim of human trafficking.

He said: “The details revealed in this investigation are utterly harrowing.

John Swinney, MSP for Perthshire North

“I extend my thanks to Police Scotland and other stakeholders for the essential work they are undertaking to combat this disgraceful practice, and pay tribute to the extraordinary courage of the survivors.

“It is important that any victims who are identified have access to necessary support services as they attempt to recover from such a horrific ordeal.”

Scottish Government urges people to report trafficking concerns to the police

Following this investigation, the Scottish Government is now urging anyone who thinks something “doesn’t look right” to report their concerns to Police Scotland.

A spokesman for the government said: “Any form of human trafficking or exploitation is completely unacceptable.

“The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, gives police and prosecutors greater powers to detect and bring to justice those responsible for trafficking.

“The act also ensures support is made available to victims of trafficking and exploitation and we have made available over £1.4 million to TARA and Migrant Help in 2021/22 to provide this support.

“Throughout the pandemic we have worked closely with both organisations to ensure help has remained available, including funding significantly greater access to electronic devices to assist with remote support.

“It is vital that the public report any concerns to the Modern Slavery Helpline or Police Scotland – if something doesn’t look right, report it.”

Anyone with concerns about human trafficking can call Police Scotland on 101 or call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

If you would like to speak to our Impact investigations reporter Sean O’Neil please email soneil@dctmedia.co.uk