Human Trafficking and Exploitation

– in the Scottish Parliament on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

1. To ask the Scottish Government what resources it is allocating to address human trafficking and exploitation. (S5T-01840)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

The horrifying discovery in Essex last week underlines in the gravest terms the seriousness of the issue. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all members in passing on our condolences to the families and loved ones of those who so tragically lost their lives.

Migrant Help and the trafficking awareness raising alliance—which is known as TARA—are funded by the Scottish Government to support victims of human trafficking and exploitation. TARA supports women who have been trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, and Migrant Help supports all other adult victims of human trafficking and exploitation. The organisations will share more than £3 million across the financial years 2018-19, 2019-20 and 2020-21.

We are also providing funding of £120,000 this financial year to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to provide a national psychological trauma support service to adult trafficking victims.

We are providing £300,000 to the Aberlour Child Care Trust and the Scottish Refugee Council to deliver the Scottish guardianship service in this financial year.

A wide range of partners throughout Scotland also dedicate resources, under the framework of the collaborative approach that is set out in our human trafficking and exploitation strategy, which was published in May 2017.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The support that is available is welcome, given the horrendous exploitation that people who have been trafficked have faced. Will the Scottish Government ensure that the figures on victims of trafficking are broken down by police division and area so that local authorities can deliver an adequately funded response and give people who have been trafficked the support that they need across the whole of the country?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I will certainly consider that suggestion, which is very worth while. I have attended many a conference on the dangers of human trafficking, and the last couple that I have attended have been at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan. As our partners, the police are heavily involved in the important work to tackle the issue. I will certainly look at Sarah Boyack’s suggestion about providing a further breakdown of the trafficking figures—perhaps we can do that through the national referral mechanism—and will get back to her on the detail of what is possible in that regard. The more detail we can give in the figures, the better that will be for local action.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I very much welcome that commitment. I understand that for people who have been trafficked, the absolute priority is to get somewhere safe and to get some support. For people who have been through the experience of being trafficked, particularly if the traffickers have employed them in this country and they are vulnerable, not just because of the journey but because of their new experience, access to affordable housing in another part of the country might be the first part of the way forward. Therefore, could the cabinet secretary look at the issue of policing by locality and the follow-on issue of safe housing, which would release people from a horrendous and miserable experience?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Again, I would not disagree with any of what Sarah Boyack has said. I have taken part in a number of conversations and round-table discussions on human trafficking. Migrant Help and TARA will work closely with local authorities on such issues. Although much of their support will be in and around dealing with the psychological trauma, which can be vast, they will also work closely with local authorities on housing. I will speak to the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, Kevin Stewart, on the housing issue. If there is more that we can do on the housing side with our local authority partners, in getting the victims of trafficking into a safe place, we will do all that we can.

Photo of Angus MacDonald Angus MacDonald Scottish National Party

From guidance for health workers and businesses to help them to identify signs of human trafficking and a proposed legal duty on public authorities to notify the police about suspected human trafficking, to increased support for organisations that support victims and the imposition of serious crime prevention orders on individuals who are involved in such organised crime, does the cabinet secretary agree that the Government’s message is clear: Scotland rejects the horrific crime of human trafficking and we must do everything to support the victims of this appalling abuse of their human rights?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Yes, of course I agree with that. I am pleased that there is a strong cross-party consensus on tackling the abhorrent crime of human trafficking. Those of us who have talked to members of the public about modern-day slavery, as I have done, will know that they think that we are talking about countries on another continent. We are not. We know that such slavery and exploitation, which includes commercial sexual exploitation and labour exploitation, happens right under our nose on our very doorstep. Therefore, we will continue with our initiatives.

The important point to make, which is clear from Angus MacDonald’s question, is that there is no single measure or magic bullet that will be a panacea in tackling the problem, but we are taking a range of measures to address it. We are certainly not resting on our laurels. Last week’s horrific tragedy has shown that the threat is all too real and that we must redouble our efforts to make sure that not a single person is exploited in that way.

Photo of Jenny Marra Jenny Marra Labour

We heard it reported on the news on Saturday that one Vietnamese woman or child victim was making her way to Glasgow to be met by friends. The cabinet secretary will know that I have been asking about the entitlement to guardianship for unaccompanied children who arrive in Scotland that exists under section 11 of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, which the Parliament passed four years ago. Can he commit to inclusive implementation of that by 1 April 2020? What consideration is the Scottish Government giving to a Scottish national referral mechanism, which would take identification and decision making out of the hands of the Home Office and its hostile environment?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

There are two parts of that question; I will take the last one first and come back to the first part. We are working closely with the United Kingdom Government on this. I cannot confirm whether those reports are true but certainly, going by the example that Jenny Marra gave, it is important that we continue co-operation with the UK Government and of course other Governments and police forces across the UK and internationally.

We are working with the UK Government to ensure that reforms to the national referral mechanism lead to an NRM that works for Scotland and reflects our distinct systems and, indeed, our distinct legislation.

If, from the resulting conversation, it appears that there should be a separate NRM and that that would make sense for the victims of this tragic and abhorrent crime, we will of course be open minded to that. In some respects, because of the nature of human trafficking, and with the example of the terrible tragedy that has unfolded in Essex, it may make sense to continue as part of the UK NRM. However, I do not dismiss what Jenny Marra says.

On the first part of the question, I pay credit to Jenny Marra for her work on human trafficking, in particular her support for the victims of child trafficking. She and I had a meeting on that issue, along with the Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd. Our timelines are absolutely the same as they were then—they have not shifted. In terms of the Scottish guardianship service, which I mentioned in my answer to Sarah Boyack, there is no gap in provision for young people who may be victims of child trafficking. If there is an update, I will provide that after the consultation has closed.