Human Trafficking

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill was passed on 1 October 2015. 

Trafficking of children and adults is a global crime business, which targets and victimises the most vulnerable people.  It trades adults and children as commodities and exploits them for profit and personal benefit.  Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery.  It involves the transportation of people in the UK in order to exploit them by the use of force, violence, deception, intimidation or coercion.  This exploitation includes commercial, sexual and bonded labour.  Trafficked people have little choice in what happens to them and often suffer abuse due to violence and threats made against them or their families.

Human trafficking and exploitation are not only international issues.  It happens here in Scotland.  There is a perception that trafficking is about people from out-with the UK, however adults and children including UK citizens are trafficked and exploited within and between communities in Scotland and the wider UK.  The UK has an estimated 136,000 trapped in some form of modern slavery.

Human trafficking is:


·transportation or transfer;

·harbouring or receiving;

·exchange or transfer of control; or

·the arrangement or facilitation of any of the actions mentioned above of another person for the purposes of exploiting them


People are trafficked for different purposes and are often multiply exploited.  Purposes include:

  • Sexual Exploitation: Human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation primarily affects women and children. Most female victims of trafficking identified in the UK are exploited in prostitution against their will.  They may go abroad based on false promises of good jobs and economic opportunities, often out of ambition to earn money and make a better life for their children or family.  The movement or monetary arrangements.  Many are beaten, raped and abused.  The forcible or deceptive recruitment of women and girls for the purposes of forced prostitution or sexual exploitation is a form of gender-related violence.  There is no typical experience of people who are trafficked for sexual exploitation.  Some are held captive, assaulted and violated.  Others are less abused physically, but are tormented psychologically, and live in fear of harm to themselves and their family members.  Sexual exploitation of men also occurs, but there is currently only limited evidence that there are adult male victims of sexual exploitation in Scotland.  People who are sexually exploited are often also subjected to forced labour.

    Globally, 70% of the victims of trafficking are women and girls (49% and 21% respectively).

    Sexual exploitation is by far the first purpose of trafficking in women which includes commercial sexual exploitation such as prostitution, pornography, lap dancing and stripping

    Many women are also victims of domestic servitude

    Trafficking cycle is highly gendered, e.g. the root causes that make women and girls more vulnerable

    Sexual exploitation does not exist just because its victims are vulnerable but because there is a demand for sexual services from which traffickers can profit.

  • Forced labour: The International Labour Organisation provides the definition of forced labour: ‘all work or service which is exacted from any person under threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily’. Forced labour is not restricted to a particular sector of the labour market, but typically takes place in manufacturing (sweat shops), agriculture and construction.  It affects both children and adults, and represents a violation of human rights and a restriction of human freedom.  It is a practice similar to slavery, debt bondage or serfdo
  • Domestic servitude often involves people working in a household where they are ill-treated, humiliated, subjected to exhausting working hours, forced to live and work under unbearable conditions, for little or no pay.  Sexual violence and exploitation is also highly likely in these scenarios.
  • Organ harvesting involves trafficking people to use their internal organs for transplant.  Fraud often occurs if the individual is willing to have their organs removed at first, and they enter into a contract where they are promised a sum of money, but then are paid only part of the agreed sum or nothing at all.  Organ donors may be deceived by traffickers who mislead them or withhold important information about the medical intervention. 
  • Forced criminal activities: such as growing cannabis, selling pirate DVDs or bogus charity collections.

For more information please follow the links-

Migration Scotland

Sexual Exploitation: Fact Sheet, July 2018- July 2019 by Modern Slavery Helpline,

Modern Slavery in Scotland – A View From Unseen’s Modern Slavery Helpline by Modern Slavery Helpline