Creating a fairer Britain
I have chaired an Inquiry here in Scotland for the Equality and Human Rights Commission into human trafficking.
Human trafficking takes a number of different forms. It can be the trafficking of migrant workers into Scotland, paid a pittance, living in squalid and terrible conditions, and actually often fearful of the consequences if they were to be caught and deported.
We have domestic servitude where families, often bringing people from the countries where they originally came from back into Scotland, but treating them in the most hellish ways, having them sleep in front of the cooker on a mat, paying them no wages, taking their passports from them so that they can’t seek help from anyone, and not letting them mix out in the wider community.
We see it of course with sex trafficking, with women and often children being sexually abused and used in the most terrible ways. And often it defies the way that we imagine sex trafficking where we think of someone tied to a bed and being raped.
But actually, often these young women are able to go out, go to the corner shop, able to get themselves a bit of food, they are able to move and seem perhaps to be no different from anyone else. But they are living in absolute terror of the people who are using and abusing them, living in terror, not just for themselves physically, but also for their child back home, or for their mothers, for the people who will also be punished because these gangs operate in that way.
So what we have to do is make Scotland a no-go area for human trafficking, and we can do that because the report makes a number of serious recommendations about how you can make this a country which is not conducive to this kind of abuse. And we can do it by changing the law and creating a much more coherent legal structure, by encouraging the police to see and grow antennae so that they see trafficking when often they are missing it. And we can encourage our own communities, health workers, social service departments to be alert to it, and at the moment it is being currently missed.
But the other thing is that we’ve got to deal with this as crime. It isn’t an immigration issue – sometimes police come across it and immediately hand over these women to the border agencies to be simply deported, when in fact to deport them is handing them back into punishment.
What we have to do is see that it’s about the abuse of victims, the human rights abuse of victims, and an issue of crime for the traffickers.
It’s now penetrating into our societies. Local criminals are linking up with international criminals, and that’s when things get really dangerous because it becomes embedded. It hasn’t quite happened like that yet in Scotland - that’s why we have to act now and I hope that you’ll help us and encourage the Government to take the steps that are necessary to make Scotland a place where this can’t happen.