A mother of two children taken from her village in Romania under the false promise of work, transported across Europe to a property in Perth where she was raped each day and feared she was being readied for the sex trade.
Vulnerable young teenagers from London exploited by drugs gangs then sent north to Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness to sell crack cocaine and heroin.
Cockle pickers in Arbroath and farmworkers in rural Perthshire, forced to work long hours for a pittance while their gangmasters hold onto the bulk of their wages and threatened with violence if anyone speaks out.
These are just a few of the hundreds of cases of human trafficking and modern slavery happening in every local authority throughout Scotland.
Our special investigation The Exploited reveals how Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) now run a marketplace where humans are being sold or exploited in our communities for sex and labour.
Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi, head of Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit, believes these victims, and their abusers, are active on our doorsteps.
“The more we scratch the surface, the more we know there are victims hiding in plain sight,” explains DS Capaldi.
“It’s organised crime where the commodity is people and there are substantial sums of money to be made.”
Human trafficking victims in Scotland
With nearly 400 victims of exploitation reported to Police Scotland last year, many organisations working in the sector believe that number is just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Victims from 47 different countries were found to have been exploited in Scotland in 2020, from criminal and labour exploitation, to sexual and domestic servitude.
In one case an Egyptian victim was believed to have been exploited for organ harvesting.
The highest proportion of these people (96) came from Vietnam but the second largest number of victims were UK nationals (45).
Some organisations have claimed the true scale of modern slavery and human trafficking here could be as much as 10 times the figures currently being reported.
Others say that in Scotland for every one victim saved, five remain undiscovered.
Are you a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery in Scotland? Have you witnessed it in your area? Call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. Or call Police Scotland on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
If you would like to speak to our Impact investigations reporter Sean O’Neil please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the full series:
- Young mother raped daily in Perth flat after being trafficked for sex across Europe
- Trafficked women brought to Dundee and sold online for sex
- Suspected human trafficking victim jailed after being found at Fife cannabis farm
- Fears Vietnamese trafficking gangs will bring crystal meth labs to Scotland
- Tayside farm workers controlled by criminal gangs
The Impact team
- Words by Sean O’Neil
- Design by Cheryl Livingstone
- Illustrations and graphics by Roddie Reid
- Data visualisations by Lesley-Anne Kelly
- Videos and photography by Drew Farrell, Steve Brown and Blair Dingwall