Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Child trafficking in Scotland is hidden scandal, says report Police criticised for failing to secure single conviction as group warns known cases are the tip of the iceberg
Scottish police have been criticised for lack of action over child trafficking. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian
At least 80 children have been trafficked to Scotland to face sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse including forced labour, benefit fraud and domestic servitude, a report published on Monday says.
The findings conclude that these cases are the tip of an iceberg, with many more child victims who have been sold, stolen and transported thousands of miles remaining unidentified.
The report – Scotland: a safe place for child traffickers? – criticises police for failing to secure a single conviction for trafficking, and the authorities for their poor response to young victims' needs.
In November, it emerged that a young Nigerian girl had been trafficked to Scotland, held prisoner and gang-raped. Her case was just one of several documented by the Scottish Refugee Council.
Some of the children identified have been forced to work in cannabis factories and private homes and pose as dependents for benefit scams. They came from a number of countries including China, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Vietnam. The youngest was 14 years old.
Child trafficking has long been considered an issue of border control, the study said, leading to those who have been trafficked being regarded as part of a problem, rather than as victims.
Scotland's commissioner for children and young people, Tam Baillie, and the Centre for Rural Childhood at Perth College University of the Highlands and Islands produced the report, and made a number of urgent recommendations.
They called on the UK government to review the national referral mechanism to strengthen co-operation between government agencies, and to appoint an independent human trafficking rapporteur accountable to the UK parliament. The authors recommended the Scottish government should ensure adequate resources are available to tackle the problem and act as a lead for local authorities to ensure that nationally agreed procedures are followed consistently at a local level.
Baillie said: "When children are raped or exploited as slaves in households or businesses in Scotland it becomes our national scandal. When we fail to notice, fail to pick up the signs and fail to act on children's trauma, it demands action. I hope this report, the first of its kind in Scotland, will take the issue out into the open and result in action and change for child victims of trafficking."
Professor Rebecca Wallace, director of the centre for rural childhood at Perth College UHI, said the report's findings address the previous lack of an evidence base regarding child trafficking in Scotland. She added the study was an opportunity to "harness the very evident willingness of professionals encountered during the research to improve the identification and treatment of children trafficked into and within Scotland".
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