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22 March 2012

Human trafficking in Scotland

Human trafficking in Scotland

For a number of years Christian organisations have rightly campaigned on the issue of global human trafficking, leading national and international debate on the issue. Organisations such as International Justice Mission, Stop the Traffik, and CARE have raised awareness both within and outside the Church. Most recently, a group of Christian musicians came together to produce the song Twenty Seven Million in support of the The A21 Campaign group. Matt and Beth Redman and LZ7 saw their anti-human trafficking anthem reach number four on the iTunes singles chart and number one on the Amazon MP3 bestsellers charts. The song tells the true story of a girl trafficked from Eastern Europe into London's sex trade.

In Scotland the issue is also gaining momentum both within and outside the Christian community. Recently the Scottish parliament held a debate looking into the extent of human trafficking in Scotland and the possibility of legislating to strengthen the law. Subsequently the Equal Opportunities Committee brought together a number of key stakeholders to begin the process of developing a holistic strategy for tackling trafficking in Scotland.

In recent years much research has attempted to quantify the extent of the problem within the boarders of Scotland, a difficult task given the crime's covert nature. The national referral mechanism statistics that are available for Scotland show that 228 referrals were made from April 2009 to 10 February 2012. Of these, 126 were confirmed as victims. Reasonable estimates therefore suggest that Scotland has around 75 potential victims of trafficking each year. While identifying the numbers has been important, recent publications by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the commissioner for children and young people have tried to move further, identify key recommendations for the Scottish government.

While Scotland has already introduced legislation there has only been one successful prosecution for human trafficking compared with more than 150 successful prosecutions in England and Wales. Under section 22 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 ('trafficking into prostitution'), in October 2011 two people were jailed for arranging travel, accommodation and advertising of 14 women. The lack of convictions has been the source for one of the strongest recommendations – a specific statutory aggravation in the form of a new Human Trafficking Act currently backed by the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland. Other recommendations include the need to lessen the burden of proof for convictions, the creation of a Scottish national referral system to provide a multi-agency referral mechanism and the development of a specific government strategy in place for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

The Evangelical Alliance in Scotland currently sits on an ecumenical anti-human trafficking group which brings together representatives from a number of denominations. The group represents the continued desire of the Christian community to be at the forefront of debate and join others who are pushing the government to be as proactive as possible to tackle this issue. The group has drafted a report to be presented at the Church of Scotland General Assembly in May. It is the start of what is hoped to be a growing awareness within the wider Church of the issue of human trafficking and its impact on Scotland.