Glasgow 2014 Could Lead to an Influx of Victims of Human Trafficking

By on September 12, 2013—
“Anti-trafficking co-ordinator Myria Vassiliadou has told MSPs they must make victims who are smuggled into this country for sex a priority.

Eastern European prostitutes in an Israeli brothel
Eastern European prostitutes in an Israeli brothel

MSPs fear that next year’s Commonwealth Games could lead to an influx of victims of human trafficking to Scotland, the European Commission’s anti-trafficking co-ordinator has heard.

Myria Vassiliadou, the first person specifically tasked by the European Union’s governing body to tackle trafficking, has urged the Scottish Government to make people who procure sex and consumer goods from victims its top anti-trafficking priority.

Studies have shown that authorities must be vigilant to human trafficking during large sporting events, she told Holyrood’s European and External Relations Committee.

Human trafficking is worth 32 billion (£20 billion), Ms Vassiliadou said, equivalent to around two-thirds of the entire Scottish Budget.

Three-fifths (61%) of victims of trafficking in the EU are EU citizens, she said.

Victims are trafficked for sex; for forced labour in sectors such as construction, agriculture and health; for benefit fraud; and for crime and organ removal, she said.

Labour MSP Hanzala Malik said: “We’re going to have the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and, like many others, I am very fearful that nearer the time there may be an influx of victims, and we really need to be ready for that.

“Scotland prides itself … we would like to think that we are reasonably clean compared to our counterparts around Europe and we wish to retain that reputation.

“It’s a very big event for us in terms of history and, therefore, we are very nervous.”

Ms Vassiliadou said: “It’s very important when it comes to large-scale events, especially sporting events. Sometimes we try to undermine the importance of that for all sorts of reasons. There have been a lot of studies to demonstrate that we have to be very vigilant indeed.”

Committee convener Christina McKelvie, also co-convener of Holyrood’s cross-party group on human trafficking, said: “One of the most horrifying things that I have heard is that this industry is worth 32 billion. That’s just short of our entire Scottish Budget if it was in pounds, and that’s absolutely unbelievable to think that billions of dollars are being used to fund criminal lifestyles when we are trying to deliver health, education and justice.”

Ms Vassiliadou said: “Member states should be focusing on following money trails. According to the United Nations, it provides up to 32 billion of profits a year to the traffickers. We have to follow the money, do thorough financial investigations and ensure better prosecutions and convictions.

“In 2016 we have to look at what the practices are in member states of criminalising clients or consumers who knowingly use the services of victims of trafficking.

“There is a debate there. Some would argue, ‘How can you prove that they knowingly used the services or bought products made by victims?’ Others will tell you that if you do that it has a normative effect, and people will be 10 times more careful because the idea that they might be criminalised will make them ask a lot more questions.

“In sexual exploitation there is so many different perspectives, with 28 perspectives on how to deal with it across 28 member states, varying from criminalising the clients of prostitution to making sure that people in prostitution are fully legally protected.

“There is a grey area and I’m not here to comment on that, but if I were a policymaker at the member-state level, the issue of demand is the first thing that I would put forward for debate, ensuring that we deal better with consumers and with clients in whatever form the member state or the Scottish Government thinks appropriate.

“In terms of pure logistics and economics there is no supply without demand so if we don’t deal with demand, we are doing nothing.”

Speaking after the committee, Ms McKelvie said: “Stark evidence has been heard today on the profits from human trafficking being just shy of the entire Scottish Budget.

“Our committee is determined to support the efforts to coordinate action to tackle organised crime. We’ll discuss this further at our meeting next week to see how we can assist, as this form of human slavery is unacceptable in a modern Scotland.””

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