The Scottish government will double support for human trafficking victims to 90 days, Scottish Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has announced.
The extended period of support will be three times longer than the Council of Europe minimum period and twice as long as the rest of the UK, Mr Matheson told the Scottish Parliament.
The change is being made after consultation with victims’ groups and other justice agencies, and is a key part of the new Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy, launched in May and aimed at eliminating human trafficking in Scotland.
Funding of almost £800,000 will be provided this year through support groups TARA (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance) and Migrant Help UK.
Addressing MSPs in a debate on trafficking, Mr Matheson said: “Trading adults and children as commodities is an abhorrent crime which degrades victims and causes lasting physical and psychological damage.
“There were 150 victims of trafficking supported in Scotland last year, each person suffering abuse and exploitation over weeks, months or even years. This cannot continue in our communities.”
Mr Matheson said they were working hard to turn Scotland into “an increasingly hostile place for those who traffic other human beings” while also improving the support they provide to victims.
“We have been listening to groups working directly with victims and I am pleased that we will now double the length of support available for adult victims to 90 days,” Mr Matheson said. “This is one of a number of measures we are taking, including running an awareness-raising campaign later this year and giving new help to the police, prosecutors and courts to better target perpetrators of human trafficking.”
Migrant Help UK’s Senior Operations Manager for Scotland, John Merralls, welcomed the move saying they considered it “positive, forward thinking and victim-centric.”
“This move demonstrates the Scottish Government’s clear commitment to supporting and listening to the voices of victims of human trafficking in Scotland and represents a significant step in recognising the importance of an enhanced support period and the benefits that will provide,” Mr Merralls said.
He added that the move also established Scotland as a leader across Europe in respect of supporting victims of human trafficking.
Councillor Franny Scally, on behalf of Community Safety Glasgow, which runs TARA, said: “We are pleased that the experiences of survivors, stakeholders and researchers have been considered and that Scottish support services will be able to provide trauma-informed, crisis support to victims of trafficking for an increased period of up to three months, reflecting international best practice. This increased period of safety for victims will continue to ensure Scotland is leading the way in protecting victims and creating a robust foundation from which they can make informed decisions including their ability to seek justice, exercise their human rights and continue their recovery.”