PERTH and KINROSS BUSINESSES URGED TO ‘OPEN THEIR EYES’ TO THE SIGNS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

BUSINESSES across Perth and Kinross are being warned to stay alert to the signs of human trafficking amid fears that Brexit could lead to workers being exploited.

As October 31st looms ever closer, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) is advising businesses to stay vigilant as a decline in the migrant workforce may lead to an increase of human trafficking to fill gaps.

SBRC’s Serious Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Lead, David MacCrimmon, seconded from Police Scotland, believes criminal gangs could infiltrate Scottish businesses and make money from people they put to work.

He said: “The UK is still seen as a desirable place to come for employment opportunities, and this can lead to, as it has previously, criminal gangs exploiting people as they’re put to work, often in horrendous working and living conditions.

“We must open our eyes to this, not just the eyes of the public, but the eyes of the business community. We need to be able to spot the signs of potential victims of human trafficking and know what to do and who to call should we encounter victims.

“Victims of human trafficking are often hidden in plain view, and there are many examples of that, whether it has been cases of cleaners in large office blocks, workers in hand car washes in our towns and cities, or those working on our high streets in nail bars and other shops.”

Figures released earlier this year showed that 692 human trafficking crimes have been detected by police across Scotland since 2015.

There was a 42% increase in trafficking related referrals from 2016 to 2018 yet a survey from the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy revealed that 54% of people do not believe it’s an issue in their local area.

David says that hiding human trafficking victims in plain sight can also mean moving them around different locations.

He said: “We associate moving victims about with smuggling, and the two are entirely different things. 

“Yes, sometimes victims of trafficking are moved about from place to place in cars, vans and trucks, but often this is done in plain sight too.

“Many victims of trafficking can simply be told to go from one destination to another by bus or train. 

“They are often given tickets to do so, and frequently there will be someone to meet them at the other end, to take control of them. This control can be through fear and intimidation, through threats of violence or actual violence, or simply as part of a debt.

“Whether you are working in retail, or in a large office block or a venue, if you work on the transport infrastructure, the train stations or bus stations, if you travel yourself on public transport, or are a driver in the haulage industry, if you spot something that’s not right, if you see someone that you feel may be the victim of human trafficking, someone who is displaying the signs of being a victim, report it to the police immediately.

“Human trafficking is not just a crime, it’s a human rights violation, and we need to do our bit to support the victims.”

Signs of human trafficking can include;

·         Appearance of neglect, physical neglect

·         Signs of poor nutrition

·         Withdrawn, submissive

·         Old injuries, or vague about how they came about injury in the first place

·         Excessive working hours

·         Distrust of persons in uniform

The Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) is a non-profit organisation which exists to support and help protect Scottish businesses.

Its unique connection to Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Government gives us exclusive access to the latest information on legislation, criminal trends and threats, allowing us to provide the very best advice to safeguard your staff, customers and business.

Image: David MacCrimmon

Abigail Shepherd