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19 March 2015

Take action against human trafficking in Scotland

Take action against human trafficking in Scotland

This month the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill came before Holyrood for the first stage of its committee consideration. Getting to this stage has been the culmination of years of campaigning to push this issue up the agenda in Scotland, including MSP Jenny Marra's member's bill, which in many ways laid the groundwork for the present Scottish government bill.

Also present and giving evidence on the first day of scrutiny was Abolition Scotland, a coalition of organisations including CARE, International Justice Mission, Glasgow House of Prayer and ourselves. The coalition began with God moving the heart of one man to call Christians to respond to the realities of human trafficking in Scotland. If there was a picture of what God can start through one person's prayers and obedience, then seeing the Church being invited round the table to discuss this issue in our national parliament is surely a good example.

The bill itself has much to be commended and we support the Scottish government in its aim to make Scotland a hostile place for human trafficking. However there are three areas in particular where the bill needs to be strengthened so it can fully reach its undoubted potential.

The first is in tackling demand for sexual services. Demand often leads to a larger market for human trafficking. Northern Ireland led the way in the UK recently by criminalising the purchase of sex, and other nearby nations are considering similar legislation. France and the Republic of Ireland and have both been considering this issue following the example originally set by Sweden nearly 15 years ago. We are calling on supporters to contact MSPs to ask for them to support the principle of including this provision when the opportunity comes to amend the legislation in the parliamentary process.

Secondly, we believe there are considerable opportunities to improve the provisions for the survivors of human trafficking, which was a feature of Jenny Marra's bill. We want Scotland to be a world leader in dealing with the victims of trafficking in a compassionate and holistic way. We believe there's also a role for the Church to play in offering support to victims as they recover and rebuild their lives following the almost unimaginable trauma that human trafficking brings to its victims.

Thirdly, there needs to be special provision for children who are the victims of human trafficking. In the UK parliament's Modern Slavery Bill there is provision for children to have a guardian or advocate appointed to help them negotiate the challenging and unsettling world of hearings, court cases and meetings with social services and others, and we believe this provision should also be in the Scottish bill. Children deserve the best possible care following the ordeal of trafficking. We want to stand up for their rights as we engage with MSPs and encourage supporters to do likewise.

Human trafficking is one of the biggest affronts to human dignity in the world today. As Christians, we are compelled by our care for those made in the image of God and by our call to stand up for those who have no voice, those in the margins and those hidden from sight and help. We long to see effective legislation that will provide justice to the victims both at home and abroad. We will continue to engage with MSPs over the coming months to secure this at Holyrood. Will you pray and work with us to contact your MSPs to raise these issues with them, that we may see the end of human trafficking in Scotland?

For further details on this bill, and how to contact you MSPs, please email Kieran at k.turner@eauk.org. Abolition Scotland also has regular prayer meetings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and East Kilbride. For further details please contact heather@abolitionscotland.org or visit the Abolition Scotland Facebook page.