Scots 'more likely' to report people trafficking

Woman with head in hands - generic image
Image caption Michael Matheson hopes the rise is a reflection of people being more willing to report such crimes

Scotland's justice secretary has welcomed research that suggests Scots are increasingly likely to report suspected people trafficking.

But Michael Matheson warned against complacency in dealing with the problem.

Research commissioned by the Scottish government suggests 87% of people would report suspicious activity to the authorities, up from 80% in 2017.

Mr Matheson said Scotland should be a "hostile environment" for traffickers.

Human trafficking is a complex crime which involves adults and children being traded and exploited for personal benefit, and can include people being forced into labour or sexually abused.

Victims can suffer lasting physical and psychological damage.

Police Scotland has recently revealed a marked rise in reports of suspected human trafficking.

Last year it emerged that victims of the crime had been identified in communities across Scotland, including in rural communities like Annan, Alva and Fort William.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Trafficking and prostitution have long been linked but awareness is growing of other sectors affected such as agriculture

The latest survey indicated a slight increase in the proportion who thought trafficking was a big problem in Scotland, from 14% to 16%.

Those in the west of the country were significantly more likely to think human trafficking was an issue "to a great extent" - 20% compared to 13% in the east and south and 12% in the north.

However, Scots were increasingly likely to think the issue was a big problem in Europe (59%) and the rest of the world (69%).

Among the respondents there was an increased awareness of trafficking activity in farming and the beauty industry as well as prostitution or drug trafficking.

Mr Matheson said he hoped the rise was a reflection of people being more willing to report such crimes.

"This survey clearly shows that, in 2018, more people are recognising trafficking, where it takes place, and what to do about it," he said.

"The findings are also in line with the increase in trafficking reports made to Police Scotland, published earlier this year and suggests the Scottish government's recent awareness raising campaign has reached a wide range of people.

"However, we cannot be complacent. Such appalling abuses of human rights must stop and we are continuing to make Scotland a hostile environment for traffickers, including giving Police Scotland the power to ban suspects from a range of activities.

"We also remain focused on victims and have increased the statutory minimum period of support to ensure trafficked individuals will receive care over a longer period, which will greatly aid their rehabilitation."

The Kantar TNS research was carried out with a sample of more than 1,000 Scots, once in 2017 and again in 2018.

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