THERE were 55 potential victims of human trafficking in Scotland last year, according to a new report.
Almost a third (30 per cent) of them experienced sexual exploitation followed by labour exploitation (14 per cent) and criminal exploitation (9 per cent).
Romania was the most common country of origin for victims in Scotland, with nine of them coming from the country, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA) study.
Victims north of the border came from 18 countries including Poland, Slovakia, Thailand, Vietnam, Ghana and Nigeria.
The NCA’s United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) estimates that 2,744 people, including 602 children, were potential victims of trafficking for exploitation across the UK in 2013.
This is an increase of 22 per cent on 2012.
Liam Vernon, head of the UKHTC, said: “Human trafficking for the purposes of exploitation is an insidious and complex crime, and much of the exploitation is hidden from view.
“The National Crime Agency is committed to continually disrupting what is a vicious and criminal trade in human misery, which exploits the most vulnerable people, both here and abroad, for financial gain.
“Victims are being forced to work in private houses and in hospitality, farming, manufacturing and construction industries. In many cases, threats and violence are used to ensure compliance.
“The NCA will continue to work closely with a range of partners to help eradicate this disturbing crime.”
The report found that Romania is the most prevalent country of origin for potential victims of trafficking in the UK for the third consecutive year. More than half of them are exploited for sex.
This year is the first time the figures have been broken down regionally.
Karen Bradley, Modern Slavery and Organised Crime Minister, said: “Modern slavery is an appalling crime that has no place in today’s society.
“Yet these figures show it is taking place here - often out of sight - in shops, fields, building sites and behind the curtains of houses on ordinary streets.
“That is why we are taking action on a number of fronts including raising public awareness.
“The National Crime Agency is leading an enhanced and co-ordinated response to targeting trafficking gangs, we are working with law enforcement overseas and we are strengthening legislation.
“The Modern Slavery Bill, the first of its kind in Europe, will make it easier to prosecute the organised criminals behind the majority of modern slavery, ensure slave drivers receive tougher sentences and improve the protection of victims.”
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “Human trafficking is a heinous crime and has a devastating impact on its victims. We will do everything in our power to crack down on those who exploit people for forced labour, sex or domestic servitude.
“That is why we are bringing forward new legislation within this Parliamentary session which will give our police and prosecutors greater powers to hunt down and punish those who seek to profit from human misery.
“This new Human Trafficking Bill will put in place measures to help make Scotland a hostile place for traffickers to operate in and will be backed by a new strategy to enhance the support available for victims. The aim will be to send out a clear message to traffickers that Scotland is closed for business.”