The spike in human trafficking in Scotland is causing alarm bells.


The backdrop to the Leicester clothing factory scandal that exploded last summer, involving well-known fashion labels such as BooHoo and Glasgow’s Quiz, was primarily health concerns: low-paid staff were forced to work in cramped spaces, allegedly during the closure, leading to an early revival of Covid-19 infections in the area.

The Leicester revelations have raised concerns about the efficacy of the UK’s laws against modern slavery, despite reports that these staff were paying as little as £ 3 to £ 3.50 per hour for their jobs. The Modern Slavery Act (2015), praised when it was passed as a “world first” in the war against human trafficking, has since been dismissed as toothless and was scheduled for a review this year before almost all other issues were overtaken by the pandemic.

Shan Saba, one of the leading campaigners against labor abuse in the Scottish recruitment industry, says these activities remind us that as Anti-Slavery Day approaches on October 18, more action is required. While changes have been postponed to improve the Modern Slavery Act, they are still expected to arrive, putting employers and recruiters on notice further.

“When you talk about modern slavery, you’re not necessarily talking about Eastern European workers or workers from the Far East, and you’re not necessarily talking about illegal immigrants,” Mr. Saba said. “Modern slavery is a complex crime and much more widespread and closer to home than many people realize.”

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Last year, 512 people in Scotland went through the National Referral Process (NRM), the scheme through which access to accommodation, health care and legal assistance is provided to those who claim to have been enslaved while their claim is assessed. That was a rise of 125 per cent over 2018.

Mr. Saba said that this kind of increase is likely to represent improved policing and visibility, but is also the result of increased trafficking of human beings.

The number of those experiencing labor abuse in Scotland increased more than those being sexually abused for the third year in a row. Of those identified in Scotland in 2019, the former accounted for 305 and the latter 113, with the remainder categorized under domestic servitude or criminal exploitation.

In the development of Scotland Against Modern Slavery, which aims to raise awareness of this crime within the Scottish business community, Saba was a key figure. After taking part in a training course designed to help HR managers understand the symptoms of individuals who are victims of trafficking, he joined the movement.

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His company, Brightwork, is the largest industrial recruitment agency in Scotland, with strong involvement in the food and beverage industry. In particular, given the increasing shortage of seasonal agricultural workers caused by Brexit, this industry is often the target of traffickers.

Brexit has led to a rise in the value of labor, which means that the returns for criminals have also increased,”The Brexit has meant that the value of labor has increased, which means that the returns for criminals have also increased,”

“The U.K. minimum wage is at an all-time high of £8.72, so legal work remains relatively expensive. You’d think rising unemployment would make trafficking less attractive, but with the economic impact of the pandemic and us leaving the EU at the end of this year, I fear it will only continue to grow.”

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In the U.K., some 17,000 firms It comes under the Modern Slavery Act, which refers to any corporation with an annual revenue of more than £ 36 million “carries on a business or part of a business in the U.K.” They are expected to make an annual statement of their activities to resolve in their supply chains the risk of modern slavery and human trafficking.

However, for those who do not comply, there is no legal punishment. Saba said the different options for revising the law include requiring more comprehensive and proactive regulations, a public registry for those who do not comply, an increase in fines, and the right to hold CEOs individually accountable for breaches.


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