Council and partners to explore measures to address human trafficking

A partnership approach to tackle the horrors of human trafficking is to be developed for Aberdeenshire, following a frank and open discussion of the subject by councillors.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee heard a joint presentation from the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Police Scotland at its meeting in February.

Councillors were told that almost 21million people are victims of modern day slavery globally; 11.4million women and girls and 9.5million men and boys. And 4.5million are victims of sexual exploitation, of which 98% are women and girls. Those who are trafficked may be used for labour, forced criminality, or sexual exploitation.

In Scotland, there were 150 referrals of potential victims of trafficking in 2016; an equal split of males and females. And while reported incidences show trafficking in several local authority areas, it’s believed the total figure could be much higher and much more widespread.

Between 2014 and 2017, Police Scotland recorded three concern reports in relation to human trafficking in Aberdeenshire, consistent with levels in neighbouring authorities.

The presentation followed a previous discussion at a full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council, when members express concerns about the issue of human trafficking.

The committee went on to have a detailed discussion covering a number of related themes, including the national referral mechanism in Scotland, the vulnerability of Aberdeenshire’s coastline, and support for those released from trafficking.

It was then agreed that a report should be brought before the Aberdeenshire Community Partnership Planning Board to examine any policies or actions required in connection with human trafficking, with a view to recommendations being presented back to councillors.

Speaking after the committee, chair Cllr Anne Stirling said: “We had a very open discussion about this incredibly serious issue which can be seen very much as a hidden crime.

“We want to make sure that we and our partners are doing all we can to stem the flow of human trafficking and to support those who have been affected by it. We also want to raise awareness so that people can raise concerns about any vulnerable individuals in their communities.”

Committee vice-chair Cllr Iris Walker: “The facts and figures behind human trafficking are very moving and we all have a responsibility to do what we can to protect and support those affected.

“By working together, we can use our skills and resources to the best effect to help reduce and prevent instances of human trafficking. 

Anybody with concerns about an individual or groups they fear may be the subject of trafficking, or have themselves been trafficked, can contact the following agencies for support and advice: