Rural businesses across Tayside and Fife are being warned of an increased risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
Police will visit companies to raise awareness of the issue amid intelligence suggesting traffickers are targeting the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors.
Officers believe criminals are diversifying while many of the urban-based businesses usually associated with labour exploitation are closed due to lockdown.
They said the risks of exploitation and coronavirus for vulnerable victims were significant.
Over the next week, police in Tayside Fife, Aberdeenshire and Dumfries and Galloway will visit farms, fisheries, food processing plants and other similar businesses to speak to the owners.
They will be supported by colleagues from the National Human Trafficking Unit.
Advice will be given on how the industries can support police in tackling modern slavery and exploitation.
Chief Superintendent Derek McEwan, Fife divisional commander, said: “We often associate human trafficking and modern slavery with cities and urban areas where it’s easier to hide victims of trafficking in plain sight.
“However, trafficking happens across all communities, both urban and rural.
“One of the emerging issues in Scotland is in relation to trafficking for labour exploitation.
“Lockdown has meant that the businesses usually associated with potential trafficking have been closed but traffickers are opportunists and will look elsewhere for chances to exploit people and to profit from their misery, regardless of the risks presented by coronavirus.
“We believe this may include targeting the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors where there is a higher demand for labour at this time of year.”
Mr McEwan said police were acutely aware that most businesses were ethical and did not want to employ people who were being exploited.
“Legitimate businesses will carry out due diligence but many will sub-contract the recruitment of labour and that’s where traffickers can infiltrate the supply chain into the industry,” he said.
“The risks are significant. Potential victims of trafficking are vulnerable, they may be unaware of the risks of coronavirus or they have no other choice but the put themselves at risk of exploitation by taking whatever work is available.”
Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi, head of Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit, said: “The nefarious activities of human traffickers continue to pose a threat, even during this pandemic period.”
Anyone with information about human trafficking or exploitation should contact police on 101 or call the modern slavery helpline on 08000 121 700.