Child trafficking gangs targeted by new specialist Edinburgh police squad

The new squad is believed to be interviewing 10 under-18s who have been found in the Lothians in recent weeks.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 11:34 am
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 11:35 am

CRUEL crime gangs trafficking children from Vietnam to work as cannabis farm slaves are to be targeted by a new elite police squad.

The unit - based at Fettes in Edinburgh - was set up to dismantle organised crime networks preying on migrants.

Scotland is a net exporter of cannabis, with farms operating in homes and industrial units across the country. Several high-profile raids have seen Vietnamese youngsters taken into custody, then care, after it emerged they had been trafficked into the country by criminals.

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The unit - based at Fettes in Edinburgh - was set up to dismantle organised crime networks preying on migrants.

The new squad is believed to be interviewing 10 under-18s who have been found in the Lothians in recent weeks.

It is understood they have been trafficked from the south-east Asian country to work in cannabis farms. Other youngster are forced into prostitution or work in nail bars while Eastern European victims are used in the sex trade, sold in marriage scams or made to work in car washes.

Details of the new unit emerged weeks after the bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were found in a

There have been 397 referrals received by Police Scotland's National Human Trafficking Unit between January and November 13 this year - of which 196 were Vietnamese nationals and 90 claimed to be under 18.

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The figure is 20 per cent higher than last year.

An Edinburgh City Council source told the Daily Record: "Trafficking has become a growing problem not just here but across Scotland.

"At least 10 or 12 youngsters have approached the council, or been identified by the police as having entered this country illegally, and are victims of trafficking.

"Police Scotland has set up a squad to investigate this. It will be a complex, challenging inquiry, because we are dealing with people who speak little to no English and who are understandably scared and frightened.

"It's becoming a nightmare for councils already under budget strains, as we have to look after these people, but money becomes a secondary issue when you hear what they have gone through.

"Many are working in cannabis farms for 18 hours a day, get very little food and are not allowed out unless accompanied by someone.

"They often don't get any pay or, if they do, it's a pittance.

"These children have been very brave to come forward and I know the police are throwing huge resources at it to find those responsible and also reunite those children with their families if this is possible."

Councillor Ian Perry, education, children and families convener for Edinburgh City Council, said: "We put in place all appropriate supports for these young people, including education, health care and accommodation."

Detective Chief Superintendent Gary Cunningham said: "We recognise that the number of people reporting being trafficked from Vietnam to Scotland continues to rise.

"We continue to work with UK and international law enforcement and other agencies to understand the reasons for the increase and to conduct thorough investigations to identify those responsible for trafficking these individuals into Scotland.

"Human trafficking is often hidden in plain sight within our communities.

"Anyone with concerns about the welfare of someone they suspect of being trafficked should contact the police."