Scotland’s biggest industrial recruitment agency, Brightwork, has announced an open-ended extension to its partnership with Migrant Help, the UK-wide charity dedicated to assisting victims rescued human trafficking.
Based in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Elgin, Brightwork originally joined up with Migrant Help last year with a commitment to help victims of modern slavery find genuine employment. Since then, Brightwork has provided assistance to a number of Migrant Help clients.
Shan Saba, a director at Brightwork, said that initial period was a big learning curve as both organisations began to identify the most common obstacles to securing work for those coming out of the human trafficking network.
These can include personal issues such as drug or alcohol abuse, which in some cases is what allows people to fall into modern slavery in the first place. There are also frequently barriers to providing vouching and references, as most have not been legally employed for many years.
“Some of their clients face major challenges,” said Shan. “Many of them do not have straight-forward backgrounds.”
In addition, many Migrant Help clients are not EU citizens, so have no automatic right to work in the UK.
“You have to determine whether they want to stay or go home, and if they want to stay, they then go into the asylum process. From there, they may then get leave to remain in the UK, after which they can move into employment.
“What we are working towards now is to identify these barriers earlier, so we can more efficiently deal with these challenges and give these people the opportunity for a brighter future.”
Migrant Help’s Deputy Director of National Operations Rabiya Ravat said:
“Being self-sufficient and able to support themselves and their families plays a major role in our clients’ journey of recovery. That is why partnerships like this are crucial for us and for the survivors of human trafficking.”
Migrant Help is the largest provider of support services to victims of human trafficking in Scotland and offers safe accommodation, advice and guidance aimed at helping survivors in their recovery and preventing re-trafficking.
According to figures from the Scottish Government, 150 people across the country were identified as potential victims of human trafficking in 2016. That number jumped to 207 in 2017 and increased again in 2018 to 228.
Brightwork has entered into several partnerships to combat modern slavery, including the multi-stakeholder initiative Stronger Together and the Glasgow-based Bridges Programme. Earlier this year, the firm also started the group Scotland Against Modern Slavery, which aims to raises awareness of this brutal criminality within the business community.
The agency’s passion on this subject is driven by Shan, who got involved after attending a training course in 2017 organised by Stronger Together.
“I did the course purely for commercial reasons,” he said. “We are the major supplier of labour to the drinks industry in Scotland, and we made the decision that if we were to grow further, we needed to move into food production, which is a closely-related industry.
“You have to do the Stronger Together course if you are supplying staff in food production, so that’s what I did, but when I came away from it I was shocked to realise how easy it is for this to slip into any supply chain.”
Shan now sits on the corporate group that advises the Scottish Government on human trafficking. He believes the rising number of cases identified across the country is a combination of increased awareness of the problem, as well as a rise in this form of criminal activity.
“It is a mixture of both,” he says. “The Scottish Government has been very good about raising awareness, but I also think the criminality behind human trafficking is getting stronger.
“It involves less jail time than a major drugs conviction, so criminals see it as less risk for similar financial reward.”