Top Lanarkshire cop urges public to help end scourge of modern slavery

Published date16 April 2022
Superintendent Andrew Thomson’s appeal comes as a UK charity, which works with survivors of modern slavery, reveals that reports of sexual exploitation, where people are forced into prostitution and performing sexual acts, have jumped by 15 per cent over the past year

The findings of anti-slavery charity, Unseen – which show a significant increase for the third consecutive year – come amid warnings that the Ukraine war will make the situation worse, as vulnerable women and child refugees are preyed upon by traffickers.

The figures, published last week, are part of the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline Annual Assessment, a yearly stock-take of UK slavery and human trafficking.

Data from a helpline, which is run by Unseen and can deal with calls in over 200 languages, helps to shed light on the nature and scale of slavery in the UK where, experts estimate, there are up to 136,000 in slavery at any one time.

Justine Currell, director of Unseen and co-author of the assessment, said: “The continued increase in reports of sexual exploitation is extremely worrying, and the Ukraine war could add fuel to the fire.

“In a refugee crisis, when there are many vulnerable people on the move, you’ll find criminals trying to exploit the situation – and that includes human traffickers.”

In 2021, the charity received nearly 8500 contacts from victims, from professionals working in services such as the NHS, from businesses and members of the public.

As a result, 3019 potential victims of modern slavery were highlighted – 6.4 per cent of whom were children.

Last year saw a 51 per cent increase in the number of modern slavery cases where a potential victim contacted the Unseen helpline themselves.

Potential victims came from 76 nationalities, with Romania being the most common, followed by Vietnam, China, Albania and Sudan.

Motherwell-based Supt Thomson, of Police Scotland’s Lanarkshire division, said traffickers operate across international borders and in the UK – but also within Scotland.

“Eliminating all forms of trafficking and exploitation, and protecting people from harm continues to be one of Police Scotland’s top priorities,” he said.

“Trafficking and exploitation is challenging and complex to investigate. Working with partners, we assess the threat and develop intelligence to safeguard those at risk of, and vulnerable to, human trafficking while identifying those committing, facilitating and profiting from exploitation.”

Supt Thomson revealed that, following...

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