Mon 13th July 2020
More than 8000 people living in Scotland are victims of modern-day slavery – 10 times more than first thought.
The figures are way above the 800 number estimated by the Government – and a report being published today reveals the shocking numbers could just be the “tip of the iceberg”.null
The study by the Centre for Social Justice and the anti-slavery charity Justice and Care claims human trafficking has intensified during the Covid pandemic.
Justice and Care’s chief executive, Christian Guy, said: “Human trafficking happens behind closed doors, in towns and cities. What we have heard are known stories – there will be many more yet to cross the path of police, local authorities or charities.
“While the UK has made progress on modern slavery, not least the passing of the Modern Slavery Act five years ago, so much more work is needed to combat the issue in the UK.”
The report is calling for more Government action on the issue, better care of victims, which they believe will help bring those responsible to justice, and more action to hold firms to account for slavery in their supply chains.
It also points out that a loophole in the Modern Day Slavery Act that is being exploited by drug gangs needs to be eliminated.
The report, based on police data, states there are 100,000 slaves across the UK, with 8082 in Scotland.
Modern slaves are frequently trafficked from abroad, although in the past three years the UK has been the top country of origin of suspected slavery victims, the report says.
The victims are often placed in cramped, run-down flats or houses and forced to work long hours in cannabis farms, agriculture, prostitution, factories or nail bars for little or no money.
Some are only provided with food and drink. Those who are paid often get £2 an hour or less.
The report called on the Government to do more to understand the scale of the problem, including better analysis of police data.
It pointed out that slavery is linked to benefit fraud, street begging, the sale of illicit tobacco and work in brothels or car washes.
It also warns that there is evidence the Government’s furlough schemes are being abused.
Government estimates in 2017 put the cost of slavery at up to £4.3billion, based on estimates of between 10,000 and 13,000 victims.
Former foreign secretary William Hague said: “Most people find it hard to believe that, nearly 200 years after Britain formally abolished slavery, the terrible crime of holding another human being enslaved is still widespread here.
“Modern slavery is hidden from view, even though it is all around us.
“Across our country, large numbers of young women have been forced into
“Thousands of young men struggling with debt are drawn into forced labour from which they cannot escape.
“Hundreds of children are growing up never experiencing the freedom the rest of us enjoy.”
All 32 of Scotland’s local authorities reported cases of trafficking or exploitation last year.
Detective Superintendent Fil Capaldi, head of Police Scotland’s National Human Trafficking Unit, said: “The nefarious activities of human traffickers continue to pose a threat, even during this pandemic.
“Our focus remains on identifying people who may be victims of traffickers and ensuring they get the support they need.
“Our team is working hard, with agencies across the UK and globally, to identify the criminal gangs trading people and to bring them to justice.”