Lack of awareness of human trafficking is helping to fuel exploitation, survivors warn
A lack of awareness of human trafficking is helping to fuel exploitation, survivors have told the Scottish Government.
A group of survivors of human trafficking met with Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf today following a recent Scottish Government consultation on plans for a new duty on statutory authorities to notify the police where there are concerns around trafficking.
One survivor told Yousaf: “If there was greater awareness, someone like me would not have suffered. I was only in the situation for a few months but the impact is long lasting on my life. Human trafficking is real and it is happening right here in Scotland.”
The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in 2015, introduced a single offence for all kinds of trafficking for the first time, while raising the maximum penalty for trafficking to life imprisonment and giving police a new set of tools to prevent and detect trafficking.
Following the meeting with the Justice Secretary, human rights groups warned that survivors of trafficking must play a meaningful role in the response.
Kirsty Thomson, director of the Scottish Anti-Trafficking and Exploitation Centre at JustRight Scotland, said: “Survivor engagement and leadership is increasingly being viewed at an international level as a key component of any holistic and effective anti-trafficking response.
“We are delighted that the Scottish Government has led the way in ensuring that survivors of human trafficking in Scotland are supported to play a meaningful role in this response – with the meeting today just being one example of this.”
JustRight Scotland’s support for survivors of trafficking is funded by the ASSIST Project, a two-year EU-funded programme focusing on the long term integration of trafficked women recovering from sexual exploitation, as well as empowering survivors to play a leadership role in creating protections.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf said: “The accounts I have heard from human trafficking survivors demonstrate the serious, lasting impact this complex crime can have on victims. We want to engage and empower survivors as they play a meaningful role in informing the response to trafficking in Scotland.
“Victims may not feel able to reach out to authorities and lack awareness of their rights and how to get help or advice, which plays into the hands of traffickers. By listening to the views of survivors we can ensure that the duty to notify process protects victims’ human rights and that the information gained is helpful in breaking the cycle of trafficking and exploitation.”