Frequently asked questions

When did the Inquiry publish its Report?

The Commission’s Inquiry into Human Trafficking in Scotland report, led by Investigating Commissioner Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, was published on 28th November 2011. The Report, details of the launch event, and information on the Inquiry are available here.

What did it find and recommend?

The Report made ten findings, each with a corresponding recommendation to effectively prevent and tackle human trafficking. These findings and recommendations called for positive change in the following:

  • Strategy
  • Public and professional awareness
  • Legislation
  • Intelligence on human trafficking
  • Prosecution of traffickers
  • Asset recovery against traffickers and organised crime
  • Regulation of legitimate sectors where traffickers operate
  • Involvement of the Private Sector against Human Trafficking
  • Independent system in Decisions on and Support for Victims
  • End-to-end service for victims from identification to recovery

What is it doing now?

The Commission is working hard with those agencies that have a major role that have either expertise and / or responsibilities against human trafficking in Scotland. These include The Scottish Government, the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, as well as the lead victim’s agencies.  It also includes those that completed excellent reports, such as the Equal Opportunities Committee in the Scottish Parliament and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People. The main objective is that the Inquiry becomes the catalyst for a strategic, multi-agency group on human trafficking in Scotland with a comprehensive strategy in place.

What does the Commission mean when it says trafficking is about inequality, human rights violation, and is a serious crime?

Trafficking is always based on the abuse of power.  It involves one taking unfair advantage of another for the purpose of exploitation, and is often based on poverty or inequalities of status, especially against women and children. 

Trafficking is a violation of a victim’s dignity and human rights, as victims simply become a means to the traffickers’ end.  This fact is recognised in international anti-trafficking instruments and the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Trafficking is a serious crime and is recognised in the international law of human trafficking as such.  European anti-trafficking instruments require States to criminalise trafficking, with the UK and Scotland having done so.

What is the Commission’s understanding of human trafficking?

There are seven contextual elements: (i) human trafficking violates human dignity and human rights; (ii) exploitation is the lived experience for victims; (iii) it is distinct from other ill treatment sitting at the severe end of a spectrum of exploitation; (iv) it relies on inequalities in status and on poverty; (v) it is a serious crime, and is often perpetrated for power and profit; (vi) it thrives in hidden communities where people are often unable or unwilling to speak; and (vii) responses to it to need to be strategic, coordinated, and focused on human rights and crime prevention.

The legal definition adopted by the Commission in its conduct of the Inquiry was from the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (the CoE Trafficking Convention)  :

Human Trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Why did the Commission undertake this Inquiry, and in relation to Scotland only?

As trafficking is inherently about inequality and human rights violations, it is at the heart of our work.  The Inquiry allowed us to build trust with stakeholders, compel information where necessary, and most importantly give voice to victims. While we recognised that progress has been made in Scotland by way of legislation, funding for victim’s services, and research and guidance, we were concerned about apparent gaps – for example, trafficking convictions, multi-agency cooperation, and the need for strategic approaches to the problem.  We also became aware of a shared willingness amongst the anti-trafficking policy community to do something positive together against trafficking. Thus the Inquiry was designed to be a vehicle for greater multi-agency cooperation and working.
There is also a devolution dimension, with human trafficking involving a range of reserved and developed laws, policies and agencies.  We felt that it was important to check if current structures and responsibilities are working for human trafficking victims in Scotland.

Why did the Commission do this Inquiry now, when Scotland has had two recent reports on trafficking ?

(The reports by the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee’s (SPEOC) on migration and trafficking (December 2010), and Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People (SCCYP) on child trafficking (March 2011)?

We have been working on the Inquiry since summer 2009, so our interest is long standing.  We also think the Inquiry builds on the two previous reports.  Taken together, they offer a thorough evidence base for agencies to read, learn from and develop a cooperative and effective strategy against trafficking in Scotland. Our Inquiry was also unique in securing unprecedented insights into the world of trafficking from victims themselves, thanks to close working with frontline organisations, such as the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Migrant Help.

Moving forward, the Inquiry’s report, findings, and in particular its recommendations are intended to be a catalyst for a change in anti-trafficking in Scotland. However this change must be informed not only by our agenda, but also by the important learning and recommendations from both the SCCYP and SPEOC reports.

If trafficking is a hidden problem how can the Commission then make a reliable estimate of 75 people presumed trafficked in Scotland each year?

Trafficking is largely hidden from the public gaze, as sexual exploitation in private sex flats or domestic servitude tragically suggests. It also exists below the radar, as demonstrated by failures to see trafficked labour in hotels, restaurants or fruit-picking. Any estimate of such a hidden or unseen phenomenon should be tentative rather than conclusive.

Accordingly, all estimates of the number of trafficking victims should be handled with care. As with many hidden social problems, like child abuse or domestic violence, it is inappropriate to place too much focus purely on numbers, as this could lead to complacency and the belief there is no problem, unwittingly enabling trafficked exploitation to fester and expand.

The estimate of 75 should be read with the above caveats. This estimate is based on official data from the National Referral Mechanism (the NRM), is based on a request for disaggregated data for Scotland, and does not include either those victims who are identified but who don’t consent to enter the NRM, or those not identified.  This may be significant in light of the public and professional awareness gaps identified by the Inquiry.

What does the Commission mean when it says that Scotland is a ‘destination’ state ?

We mean as opposed to being a ‘source’ or a ‘transit’ state or country. Trafficking is often transnational - many victims experience cross-border movement, before ending up in Scotland. There is also no reason to suppose that Scotland is not also a transit area, with victims then trafficked on to elsewhere.  We also identified a growing number of cases of victims being trafficked directly into Scotland, as well as those that are moved elsewhere within the UK and are then moved to Scotland (some then moved out again).  We also learned of some victims who escaped to Scotland to flee their traffickers. Whilst victims’ experiences are complex there are these discernible patterns.

Scotland’s ‘destination’ status should be reflected within the strategic approach recommended by the Inquiry. At the time of evidence gathering, five countries accounted for around 65% of Scotland’s trafficking victims, (also reflected within the wider UK statistics for the longer period of April 2009 to June 2011). This is the kind of information that should inform prevention work in the recommended strategic approach.

What does human trafficking look like in Scotland?

Scotland has all the main forms of human trafficking e.g. sex, forced labour, domestic servitude, and forced criminal acts. Moreover, we found trafficking across Scotland that is in its cities but also in its towns and countryside.  We found that victims tended to be deeply vulnerable, usually through poverty and / or some form of status-based discrimination in their home societies. They also tended to be deceived on what they would be doing e.g. one victim was promised restaurant work but was actually to be a prostitute in private ‘sex’ flats. Finally, control of victims was maintained through a variety of methods ranging from the subtle, to the material, through to the violent.

We found that little is known about the traffickers operating in Scotland. However, on the basis of what is known, traffickers tend to traffic from certain ethnic minority groups, and are often from these groups themselves.  However, the Inquiry also found that Scotland and Scots are implicated in trafficking in various ways, including as employers of trafficked labour, as users of trafficked services, and as organised criminals controlling, moving, and exploiting victims.

What does the Commission mean by a strategic approach to human trafficking; what changes do you want to see here?

Human trafficking is a hidden or unseen social problem which cuts across society, sectors, and policies, as well as borders.  It is a ‘system wide’ problem requiring a ‘system-wide’ response. It is not a niche issue – it involves widespread demands in affluent ‘destination’ states for cheap goods - be it cheap sex or cheap labour.

Scotland’s communities need to be informed about trafficking, what it looks like, and where it happens.  Scotland’s sectors – public, private, and civil – should be empowered to share intelligence, make life harder for traffickers, and identify, assist, and provide and / or fund services to victims

Whilst we recognise the progress that Scotland has made against trafficking to date, Scotland should now pioneer a ‘whole society’ approach to this modern slavery in our midst. This should be done through collaborative working across key Scottish, cross-border, and international agencies. This collaboration and implementation of the Inquiry’s recommendations should proceed through a multi-agency strategy and action group against trafficking.

Why does the Commission think Scotland has an intelligence gap on human trafficking?

The hidden and often international nature of trafficking makes this a particularly challenging crime for the police, especially at local levels, where trafficking and migrants may be unfamiliar to front-line officers. Traffickers are often highly sophisticated, operating across borders and in networks comprising multiple specialist functions, and practiced in money laundering and other forms of ‘white collar’ or high-end crime.  Victims also often live in terror of coming forward as a trafficked person – they fear retribution or being treated as a criminal themselves. 

Why do awareness gaps matter ?

Awareness gaps matter because if we cannot see something, we cannot do anything about it. The importance of raising public/professional consciousness of the signs, locations, and complexities of trafficking is of the utmost importance.  Trafficking happens all around us, around the country, and in ways that do not always fit stereotypical perceptions of victims e.g. a woman chained to a radiator.  It follows that Scotland’s communities, as part of the recommended ‘whole society’ approach, need to be made aware of trafficking to become the front-line eyes and ears against the crime, able to spot tell-tale signs, and to report it.

It is important that workers and professionals in certain sectors and roles can identify and assist victims as well as pass on information and intelligence on potential traffickers. These include police, prosecutors, prison officers, regulators (such as in environment health, licensing, and health and safety), health service staff, social workers and child protection officers, as well as NGOs that work with migrants.

Why does the Commission say the legislation on human trafficking needs to change?

There is criminal legislation on trafficking in Scotland, but these  offences sit in wider law concerning sexual offences or asylum and immigration.  The legislation on trafficking does not stem from a dedicated consultation and analysis of how criminal law (and indeed other legislation) should deal with this abuse specifically. Also, it does not reflect the clarity of the agreed international definition of trafficking. 

Of most concern is that senior practitioners in law enforcement in Scotland told us that legislation had to change, as clarity is needed in law on what trafficked exploitation means. It is important that Scotland recognises that it can, as part of a strategic approach based on human rights / crime prevention principles – not immigration ones – now pioneer a comprehensive, clear, and enforceable Human Trafficking Act.

What does the Commission mean by ‘comprehensive, end-to-end services’ and a ‘Trafficking Care Standard’ ?

The Inquiry found good practice by both the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Migrant Help in terms of identifying and supporting trafficking victims in Scotland. However, trafficking often has horrifying physical and mental impacts on its victims. It is just as serious as other abuses, such as of children or with domestic violence. It follows victims should have immediate and practical access to services to enable long-term psychological, physical, and social recovery.

Services, assistance, or advice should include necessary medical treatment and checks, psychological support, accommodation, material assistance i.e. money, language support, legal assistance etc. It is critical that these services are delivered in an informed and consensual basis with regular risk assessments, and operate through systematic cooperation. This model should be integral to any Trafficking Care Standard.

Finally this service model and the Trafficking Care Standard should be published and accessible to all those involved in it, and operate on the basis of clear, agreed, and high-quality multi-agency protocols. It should also be monitored for its outcomes, particularly in terms of the recovery of victims. 


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