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Human Trafficking is the movement of adults, children and young people into and within countries with the intention of exploiting them. In its simplest terms it is the movement of a person from one place to another (recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons) in conditions of exploitation, using deception, coercion, the abuse of power or the abuse of someone’s vulnerability. 

A recent inquiry into Human Trafficking in Scotland found evidence that trafficking occurs throughout Scotland and is not confined to major cities. Of the 134 persons identified 91 were female and 43 were male. Nearly all of the sex trafficking involve women, with a significant number being under the age of 18 years old. The majority of men were involved in forced labour or labour exploitation, representing 34 out of the 50 reported cases.

To support The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, a National Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy was produced which sets out the Scottish Government’s vision of eliminating Human (Child) trafficking and exploitation. The Scottish Government have also published human trafficking awareness leaflets and posters in English, Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian and Vietnamese. Useful guidance and assistance for practitioners in dealing with child trafficking can be found in the Violence Against Women Information Booklet -   Human Trafficking.  Further useful information on Labour Exploitation, Sexual Exploitation, Domestic Servitude and Organ Harvesting can be found in the Police Scotland Human Trafficking Aide Memoire (English). This Aide Memoire is also available in the following languages - Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian.

Why are people trafficked?

  • Bonded/forced labour: individuals working to pay off the debts of family at home, in construction, agriculture, horticulture, marine farming, textiles, catering, nail bars, care homes, cleaning, benefit fraud and in illicit activities such as cannabis cultivation.
  • Domestic servitude: e.g. domestic chores, looking after young children, employment in private homes where ill treatment humiliation & exhausting working hours are common. This can also involve sexual and physical abuse. 
  • Sexual exploitation: forcible or deceptive recruitment for prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation (including child abuse acts and images).
  • Child trafficking: benefit/housing fraud, illegal adoption, forced/illegal marriage (underage marriage), domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, begging and female genital mutilation.
  • Organ Harvesting: Organ harvesting involves trafficking people in order to use their internal organs for transplant. The illegal trade is dominated by kidneys, which are in the greatest demand and are the only major organs that can be wholly transplanted with relatively few risks to the life of the donor.  

What should I look for?

Human trafficking is likely to be discovered when dealing with other matters. The following indicators may assist you to recognise that someone is a potential victim of trafficking. This is a guideline and only if you have concerns, you should contact your local social work services or police.

General indicators

  • Distrustful of authorities
  • Expression of fear or anxiety
  • Signs of psychological trauma (including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • The person acts as if instructed by another
  • Injuries apparently a result of assault or controlling measures
  • Evidence of control over movement, either as an individual or as a group
  • Found in or connected to a type of location likely to be used for exploitation
  • Restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area
  • Passport or documents held by someone else
  • Lack of access to medical care
  • Limited social contact
  • Limited contact with family
  • Don’t know home or work address 
  • Perception of being bonded by debt
  • Money is deducted from salary for food 
  • Threat of being handed over to authorities
  • Threats against the individual or their family members 
  • Being placed in a dependency situation 
  • No or limited access to bathroom/hygiene facilities

Indicators of forced labour

  • Employer or manager unable to produce documents required when employing migrant labour 
  • Employer or manager unable to provide record of wages paid to workers
  • Poor or nonexistent health and safety equipment or no health and safety notices
  • Any other evidence of labour laws being breached
  • No or limited access to earnings or labour contract
  • Excessive wage reduction
  • Dependence on employer for a number of services i.e. work, transport,accommodation
  • Any evidence workers are required to pay for tools, food or accommodation via deductions from their pay
  • Imposed place of accommodation
  • Indicators of domestic servitude
  • Living with and working for a family in a private home
  • Not eating with the rest of the family/being given only leftovers to eat
  • No proper sleeping place or sleeping in shared space e.g. living room
  • No private space
  • Forced to work in excess of normal working hours or being 'on-call' 24 hours per day
  • Employer reports them as a missing person
  • Employer accuses person of theft, kidnapping or other crime related to his/her escape
  • Never leaving the house without employer

Indicators of sexual exploitation

  • Adverts for brothels etc offering women from particular ethnic/national groups
  • Sleeping on work premises
  • Movement of women between brothels or working in alternate locations
  • Women with very limited amounts of clothing and/or a large proportion of the clothing is 'sexual'
  • Only being able to speak sexual words in local language or language of client group
  • Having tattoos or other marks indicating 'ownership' by their exploiters
  • Person forced, intimidated or coerced into providing services of a sexual nature
  • Person subjected to crimes such as abduction, assault or rape
  • Does someone other than the victim receive the money from the client
  • Health symptoms (including sexual health issues)
  • Signs of ritual abuse and witch craft
  • Substance misuse

What help is there?

If you believe that a child, young person or adult may have been trafficked, it is vital that you act on this concern quickly, as trafficked people very often 'disappear' if their traffickers believe someone is concerned about them.

Given the level of risk for trafficked children, it is recommended that you do not seek consent from their carers.

See the contact information below for details of help available. 

Download the booklet

EAVAWP has published a booklet to raise awareness of Human Trafficking. It is aimed at staff working in East Ayrshire who are in contact with the general public including employees from East Ayrshire Council, Police Scotland, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, third sector organisations, further education and employment agencies. It provides practical information about people who may have been trafficked and outlines your role in identifying key contacts for each agency, as well as providing information about national and local arrangements to respond appropriately to the needs of trafficked people.

Download the Human Trafficking booklet.

Contact Information

Health and Social Care Partnership
The Johnnie Walker Bond
15 Strand Street
Telephone: 01563 554200
Social Work: Ayrshire Urgent Care Service
Note: The Emergency Out Of Hours Social Work Service is available after 5pm until 9am, Monday to Thursday and after 4pm on Friday until 9am on Monday (throughout the weekend). It is also available during public holidays. You will be put through to the Ayrshire Social Work out of Hours Response Service. A qualified Social Worker will assess the circumstances referred.
Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA)
Telephone: 0141 276 7724
Note: TARA provides an assessment and support service to women over the age of 18 years who have been trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation into and across Scotland. Support can include safe accommodation, a mobile phone, clothing, and basic toiletries, advocacy and access to mainstream services such as counselling, legal advice and health care. TARA will also encourage women to speak to police about their experience and assist them in that process. TARA is a named First Responder for The National Referral Mechanism and can provide advice, guidance and additional information for partner agencies.
United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC)
Telephone(24 hours): 0844 778 2406
Note: The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) can provide 24 hour assistance and support to those dealing with trafficking of human beings. The centre can provide information and advice in relation to legal and immigration issues, current trends and developing operations.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
Telephone: 0870 000 3344
Note: CEOP has a dedicated child trafficking unit.
Migrant Helpline
Telephone: 07837 937737
Note: This charity is funded by the Scottish Government to provide support to all trafficked victims of economic exploitation and support to adult males trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
Scottish Refugee Council
Telephone: 0141 248 9799
Note: Advice, information and assistance to asylum seekers and refugees
International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
Telephone: 0207 811 6060
Note: IOM can help with returning EU victims of trafficking to their country of origin. The organisation may assist to sort out travel documents in liaison with the relevant embassy and in some cases provide financial assistance in purchasing travel tickets and provide support for the journey home. IOM is an international organisation and may also be able to provide support in various countries of origin.
Telephone: 0800 555 111