Jenny Marra MSP




Let's Combat Evil Traffickers

11h. September 2015

All the unfairness in the world was captured in one tragic and distressing picture last week.

The sight of little Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach will forever be seared in our minds, suddenly making real a humanitarian crisis which has been slowly building for many months and years.

That shocking image succeeded in uniting us all beyond action to relieve the pain and suffering of Syria’s refugees.

As a society, we could no longer accept looking the other way as families risked their lives to escape war and persecution

The UK Government and many of their counterparts in Europe have been found wanting in their response to the plight of the refugees but were finally spurred into action when they grasped the scale of the public’s dismay.

The evil regimes of Assad and ISIL in Syria which caused the Kurdi family to flee their homeland have been questioned, and we are looking again at the difficult and challenging task of helping to bring stability and peace to this region, and undermine the violent and callous figures who are fighting it out for power and influence in the Middle East.

But there was one group who managed to escape most of the flak but to my mind are central to some of the needless loss of life we are witnessing – the traffickers.

These cruel gangs are exploiting the desperate situation in which many refugees and migrants find themselves by extorting huge sums from them in return for dubious and unsafe passage to Europe and the UK.

Whether it is those running leaking vessels across the Mediterranean or other dangerous waters, resulting in countless drownings, or those stowing people away in squalid and unsanitary conditions on lorries and vehicles, left to die at the first sign of trouble, people are getting rich on the back of this misery.

We know that refugees take unbelievable risks to make a better life for their families – we can only imagine the horror they are fleeing if they are prepared to jeopardise their own safety in this way.

But that doesn’t excuse the cynical and uncaring way in which traffickers exploit their desperation and cost countless lives for financial gain.

I first became interested in human trafficking when Helena Kennedy QC published her report on Scotland and I realised that the atrocity of people being bought, sold exploited and abused was happening here on our doorstep in Scotland.

My campaign to change the law to protect the victims, bring to justice the traffickers and provide protection in Scotland for trafficked children, has exposed me to an invisible and frightening world.

I have heard countless tales of heartbreak and exploitation, mostly of young women, put through unimaginable suffering in a way that simply shouldn’t be possible in 21st century Scotland.

But as a consequence, the Scottish Parliament will pass the Human Trafficking Bill next month after my campaign garnered the support of over 50,000 people including many Courier readers.

We finally convinced the government to adopt my bill to strengthen Scotland’s laws, properly punish the human traffickers and assist victims in their recovery.

Our new laws next month will be a beacon to the world that we will not tolerate this abuse in our country.

Scotland can be rightly proud that it is doing its bit to stand up for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Whether it be taking advantage of a family who want to make it to Europe to escape war or persecution, or a gang trafficking unsuspecting women into a country for sexual exploitation, it is unacceptable. But too often, the plight of the vulnerable is unseen and unheard, and their exploiters thrive in the shadows and margins of life.

Last week, the life of an innocent child, his brother and his mother, were cut way too short, just one story of countless tragedies.

As a result, the eyes of the world are now on the refugees risking everything for a better life.

If we are going to protect more displaced children from danger and death, we must do all we can to stop the evil gangs who seek to exploit their desperation.