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3 March 2015, 08:17
Protection for people caught up in human trafficking must be improved, according to the convener of Holyrood's Justice Committee.
Christine Grahame MSP was speaking as the committee prepares to hear evidence on proposed new legislation to tackle trafficking and exploitation.
The Scottish Government's Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill will create a specific offence of human trafficking for the first time as well as increase the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.
The legislation will also give adult victims of trafficking the same access to support and help as children and provide guidance to prosecutors dealing with cases where such people have been forced into committing crime.
MSPs on the Justice Committee will take evidence on the Bill from a range of organisations including Barnardo's Scotland, the Scottish Refugee Council and Victim Support Scotland today.
Ms Grahame said: "Human trafficking and exploitation are serious, complex crimes which know no borders. It extends well beyond the sex trade and involves the provision of cheap labour for a number of purposes, all of them exploitative.
"There is a perception that that those who are trafficked tend to come from the Far East or Eastern Europe. And while many do, domestic trafficking is a real problem too.
"Last month members of the Justice Committee visited a number of projects to meet with those involved in supporting people who find themselves exploited and abused in this way.
"The stories we heard were harrowing and it is clear that we need to improve protection for those caught up in it, and to prevent others from reaching that point.''
Churches and Christian organisations have called for the Bill to be strengthened to criminalise the buying of sex.
MSPs will also hear from Abolition Scotland, a coalition that includes the Care for Scotland Christian charity, International Justice Mission and the Evangelical Alliance Scotland, which argues the legislation offers a ''golden opportunity'' to make the purchase of sex illegal.