Archbishop’s call for action on human trafficking

 Archbishop Leo Cushley has hit out at the "significant number" of human trafficking victims in Scotland.

He believes the problem has now "taken root" in the country and called for better action to tackle it

He said: "We flatter ourselves that it exists in murky, far-away places, or in Netflix box sets about the ancient world.

"But there is a significant number of people in our country - from Africa, Asia and Europe - who are trapped in debt, and exploited by the unscrupulous.

"We should be under no illusion as to this reality, which has quietly taken root in our country."

His comments came during his homily at Mass during St Margaret’s Pilgrimage in Dunfermline on Sunday (main picture) as he compared the work of the saint, herself a refugee, to the actions Catholics must take to help those suffering from modern slavery.

He highlighted how the saint personally raised funds to free prisoners of war, allowing them to return home.

He said: "This is a phenomenon that St Margaret would have condemned and worked to change. She did so in her own lifetime.

"So we would do well to imitate her by informing ourselves about this problem and exploring what needs to be done to address it."

Church Justice and Peace groups across the St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese, are being asked to help raise awareness of the problem and "find means to assist those who find themselves trapped through trafficking".

Archbishop Cushley was one of the senior faith leaders at a conference held by Survivors of Human Trafficking in Scotland (SOHTIS) in April. They all made a commitment to work together with the Scottish Government to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery.

Fr Basil Clark, Vicar Episcopal for Caritas, Justice & Peace, has been tasked with raising awareness in the Archdiocese and finding ways to help those trapped through trafficking.

He said: “When you encounter it in a personal way, it really hits home. I had a young man from Vietnam who was brought by social workers to Mass.

“He had apparently escaped from a cannabis farm in East Lothian and ended up in Musselburgh Police Station.

He added: “We have empty church property – could they be used as safe houses? We need to go from raising such questions to actually doing something to raise money and making things happen to tackle the problem.

Human trafficking has been identified as the fastest growing global crime

Last year, 44 women in Scotland identified themselves in as victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Seven were girls under the age of 18.*