The Scottish Separated Children's Guardianship Project has offered support to 13 unaccompanied asylum seekers, all under the age of 18, since its launch nine weeks ago. Project workers said at least seven have been trafficked into Scotland and exploited, with at least one forced into the sex industry.
They have been made to work in cannabis factories, wash cars, work as servants, and pose as dependants in benefit scams.
The aim of the guardianship project, which is being run by the Scottish Refugee Council and the Aberlour Child Care Trust, is to build up trust by one worker spending a large amount of time with each child, and in many cases they are still unpicking the details of their troubled pasts.
The children come from Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola in Africa, and Vietnam in Asia. The youngest is 14, although the charity will not say how he or she was exploited.
It is reluctant to give out more information for fear of identifying any of the children.
Clare Tudor, children's policy officer at the Scottish Refugee Council, said: "Very often they have been subjected to horrifying and systematic abuse and brutally exploited. This is still very much a hidden problem and we don't have any hard figures on the number of children trafficked into Scotland." Child trafficking will be the subject of a debate at the Tron Theatre, tomorrow, at 9pm, chaired by children's commissioner Tam Baillie, which will follow a performance of Roadkill, a piece of theatre about child trafficking based on real events.
A number of inquiries are currently trying to establish the extent of human trafficking in Scotland, including one by Baroness Helena Kennedy and another within the Scottish Parliament, with a third by the children's commissioner focusing on the impact on youngsters.
Mr Baille said: "There is a need for improved understanding, particularly among professionals who come across child victims of trafficking.
"I have commissioned research into the prevalence and nature of child trafficking and I expect to be in a position to report on that in 2011."
Detective Superintendent Tom Tague, of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), said: "Working in partnership with the Scottish Government and alongside Baroness Helena Kennedy's inquiry, the SCDEA is carrying out a review to establish the extent of human trafficking in Scotland."