Human Trafficking in Glasgow

A BBC documentary has uncovered the hidden and lucrative world of human trafficking in Glasgow. Humans For Sale investigated the gangs which sell women and girls from Eastern European countries to men in Glasgow for sham marriages. The men are mostly from Asia, and marry the women in order to be allowed to apply for residency through their EU citizen spouses.

The modern day slave trade is more widespread than ever before, and people are now the second biggest criminal commodity in the world after drugs. The International Labour Organisation approximates there to be 21 million people in slavery worldwide, and there are estimated to be thousands of victims in Scotland alone. Girls from countries like Slovakia are lured with promises of jobs and better lives away from crushing poverty, only to be sold into marriage or forced into prostitution. Roma women are especially at risk due to harsh conditions in the source countries and a long history of discrimination. Most of the victims are sold by someone that they know.

The trade is especially prevalent in Glasgow due to historic links with the Roma community and a large population of men from Asia. The programme discovered 70 suspected sham marriages in the city, one third of which were in Govanhill.

Men are also trafficked by international criminals and exploited for their labour. Like the women, they are attracted by job offers and financial rewards, only to have their documents seized on arrival in the UK. Many go into large amounts of debt in order to make the move, and so cannot return home. Instead they are forced to work off their loans by labouring for tiny wages.

The 2015 Modern Slavery Act is designed to deal with these kinds of cases, yet campaigners say that the legislation does not go far enough to protect victims. Many of the people are treated by authorities as immigration offenders rather than victims of slavery, and returned home. An estimated 1/3 of victims are re-trafficked. Prosecution rates are horrendously low due to victims’ fears over their safety and that of their families, and the lack of support given by the judicial system is partly to blame.

[Louise Wylie @womanpendulum]

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