Pledge to tackle human trafficking

Faith trafficking

Faith leaders are working with a newly formed charity in a bid to end human trafficking in Scotland

7th May 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Faith leaders across Scotland have pledged to help rid the country of the scourge of human trafficking.

Representatives from across Scotland gathered at Dundas Castle, South Queensferry, on Monday 29 April to discuss human trafficking.

Slavery: A Faith Based Response was hosted by Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland (SOHTIS) to strengthen understanding and create an opportunity for faith groups to collaborate in becoming part of the solution to the eventual eradication of human trafficking in Scotland, and the support and care of survivors.

According to the National Crime Agency figures, the number of human trafficking victims found in Scotland has more than doubled in the past five years, however there are concerns that the actual numbers of trafficked people are much higher than those identified. Trafficking involves children and adults from EU and non-EU countries, as well as British citizens, with all of them being exploited for financial gain by criminals.

SOHTIS is a recently established charity whose main aim is the medium to long term care of survivors of trafficking. Joy Gillespie, the SOHTIS development manager, said: “We believe that everyone deserves to live in freedom with dignity and respect and we are delighted that this seminar provided the opportunity for a wide range of faith based organisations to work together to ensure that this freedom exists for everyone in Scotland.”

Over 10 faith groups were represented, all of whom ratified a statement demonstrating their commitment to action.

The statement said: “As national faith leaders, we recognise that human trafficking exists in Scotland. It is our fundamental conviction that all people are equal and entitled to the same rights of freedom, dignity and respect.

“We regard the exploitation of men, women and children as a crime against humanity and we reject trafficking and the activities it supports in our country and worldwide. As faith leaders, we commit to working with SOHTIS, the Scottish Government and other organisations to develop effective approaches to recognising and tackling human trafficking in Scotland and supporting the survivors.”

Pope Francis sent a personal message of blessing to all those participating in the seminar commending ‘the ecumenical and interreligious dimension of this initiative’ which he prayed ‘may bear much fruit and contribute to a growing commitment to fight against this contemporary scourge.’

The Scottish Government is committed to working with all sectors to eradicate slavery in Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf said: “Human trafficking is an abhorrent crime, with victims very often hidden in plain sight. Supporting victims, holding perpetrators to account and addressing the wider causes of human trafficking are all key priorities for the Scottish Government.

“We have made progress by providing police and prosecutors with greater powers to disrupt and prosecute those responsible through the implementation of the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act in 2015.

“We’ve also funded support services and raised awareness by working with the public and organisations, and by publishing our first Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy in 2017. However, we are committed to doing more.”