Public asked for views on human trafficking

16 June 2019, 10:22 | Updated: 16 June 2019, 11:24

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Views are being sought on which public bodies should be required to report concerns about suspected people trafficking to police.

The Scottish Government proposes councils, health boards, the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Scottish Prison Service and Marine Scotland are among organisations to which new legislation will apply.

It is hoped details collected through a duty to notify will provide a more accurate picture of the extent of human trafficking in Scotland, enabling more targeted enforcement and support.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 came into force in November 2015 and the Scottish Government is now seeking views on which organisations to include in the duty to notify.

The information to be included in notifications and who it should be passed on to by police is also under question - with proposals including all the the organisations subject to the rule as well as the National Crime Agency, Home Office and Interpol, among others.

Border Force at Glasgow Airport piloted the project and made 40 referrals to the National Human Trafficking Unit in the nine months from September 2018.

Launching the consultation, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "Human trafficking is a hidden and often complex crime meaning the true scale of the problem is unknown.

"Victims may be reluctant to acknowledge their own situation for reasons including fear of their traffickers, distrust in the authorities and a lack of awareness that there are agencies that can support them to safety and recovery.

"These plans will create a statutory duty on Scottish public authorities to ensure that the information obtained by Police Scotland is publicly available.

"This intelligence will ultimately help us to protect and support more vulnerable people."

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald said: "The introduction of a 'duty to notify' is a positive step which will help us work with other public services to further develop our collective approach to protecting survivors.

"It will also assist in helping victims to escape the clutches of traffickers, as we work to make Scotland a hostile environment for this type of inhumane criminality."

NHS Scotland chief executive Malcolm Wright stressed the role health board staff could play in identifying trafficking victims.

He said: "All clinical and non-clinical staff across the NHS in Scotland can play a pivotal role in identifying potential victims of human trafficking and exploitation that may otherwise go unnoticed or remain invisible."

The consultation will close on September 19.