Expresses concern over handling of traffickers
24 February 2011: Welcomed a report from the Scottish Parliament on migration and trafficking, human rights NGO Amnesty has but articulated anxiety over the handling of traffickers and prejudice in support for victims.
Just before the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee debate on Migration and Trafficking Programme Director of Amnesty in Scotland John Watson said while they welcome the comprehensive nature of the inquiry and subsequent report by the Scottish Parliament, they have two outstanding concerns – the lack of a clear picture of how traffickers are being tackled and an apparent bias in support for victims of trafficking.
He has asserted there have been over 100 convictions for trafficking offences in England and Wales, but there have been none recorded in Scotland. Prosecution for lesser offences, whilst potentially easier to prove, carry lesser punishments, and make it impossible to know the scale and nature of trafficking here.
He has also urged the government to change the way it currently holds and produces prosecution figures which encompass the range of offences under which traffickers are currently prosecuted.
John Watson added the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) by which potentially trafficked people are identified and supported is placing more emphasis on their immigration status than the alleged crime committed against them.
They need to ensure that the welfare of the potential victim is the primary concern and any decision as to asylum is suspended until after it has established whether or not that person has been has been the victim of trafficking.
Amnesty is urging the Scottish Government to reconsider the Committee’s recommendation to create a Scottish NRM which places the welfare of the individual above all else, Watson added.
An inquiry into the impact and contribution of migrant populations within Scottish society and the extent and nature of trafficking has been launched by the Equal Opportunities Committee.
The committee inquiry will cover a comprehensive range of issues including trends and data on migration and the ability of public sector services to respond to migrant populations.
The inquiry will consider the scale of the trafficking problem in Scotland and how public sector agencies assist victims of this activity. The committee welcomes the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into Human Trafficking in Scotland, launched earlier this week.
Committee Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: “This inquiry will look at the contribution migrants make to Scottish society, economy and culture and explore whether this is reflected in the response of public services and the general portrayal of migrants in the media.
"The committee will also seek to explore the nature and extent of trafficking in Scotland.