Child sex slaves from Africa are among victims being trafficked into Scotland by criminal gangs, according to police.
Statistics from the National Crime Agency (NCA) show a total of 34 potential victims were identified between April and June last year – a 17 per cent increase on the previous quarter.
The figures include two children brought separately from Nigeria and Somalia for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Police Scotland described the practice as “sickening” and said it was working to make Scotland a “hostile environment” for traffickers.
Victims from Africa, Asia and eastern Europe were among those identified by the authorities and reported using the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
According to the NCA, 26 of the victims identified between April and June last year – the latest figures available – were adults from countries such as Vietnam, China and Albania. The majority were brought to Scotland for sexual exploitation.
But there was also eight children, two of whom were trafficked for sex.
Scotland accounted for just 3.4 per cent of the 1,002 potential victims identified across the UK.
Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Houston, head of Police Scotland’s human trafficking unit, said: “As the latest NRM figures show, traffickers target both children and adults, exploiting them for sexual and/or labour purposes, either across international borders or within Scotland and the UK.
“Tackling human trafficking is a priority for Police Scotland. It is challenging and complex to investigate and most investigations are protracted.
“Trafficked people are victims and will be treated as such. They are at risk and will be provided with help and support.
“Trafficking is unacceptable. We will target those who control, abuse and exploit others by working collaboratively with partners to ensure that Scotland is a hostile environment to this sickening trade.”
Kevin Hyland, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said: “The number of victims entering the National Referral Mechanism has continued to increase year on year.
This is true once again for those rescued from modern slavery in Scotland. “Modern slavery is serious, organised crime. It demands our attention, awareness and assets. Thousands of people in the UK are brutally abused in our cities and on our streets – something we cannot allow to continue.”