ATTEMPTS by police and the Government to clamp down on slavery in Scotland will see a new campaign launched warning Scots not to think of human trafficking as a problem only for the country’s cities.

The public awareness push highlights for the first time all the towns and villages in Scotland where people have been found trafficked into the country, and exploited.

Scottish Government polling from five years ago suggests that 54 per cent of the public think trafficking and slavery is not something happening around them. But recent data from Police Scotland shows that victims of trafficking have been found in 27 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

The National:

In recent years authorities have found slaves in Fort William, Alva in Clackmannanshire, Appin in Argyll and Bute, and Elgin in Moray.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Human trafficking is an appalling abuse of human rights.

“This horrific crime affects the most vulnerable in society and has wide-reaching consequences for its victims.

“Generating awareness that the exploitation of adults and children is happening in Scotland today is key to bringing it to an end.

“This important campaign is part of a series of measures being implemented to eliminate this terrible crime.

“No-one should ever be bought or sold.”

Human trafficking often involves adults and children being sexually exploited, or being forced into the role of a servant or trapped in other forced labour. Latest figures show there were 150 potential victims of trafficking identified last year, a 52 per cent increase since 2013.

Organisations backing the campaign – Police Scotland, Migrant Help and Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) – stressed the importance of bringing the largely hidden crime out into the open and are encouraging people to report any concerns they may have.

TARA operations manager Bronagh Andrew said: “Since 2004, our service has supported women who have been trafficked and sexually exploited within Scotland’s sex industry.

“Women have been recovered, not just from our cities but from towns and villages across the length and breadth of Scotland.”

Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston, head of Police Scotland’s national human trafficking unit, said tackling the issue is a priority for the force.

“We will target those who control, abuse and exploit others by working collaboratively with partners to ensure that Scotland is a hostile environment to this sickening trade,” he said.

Abul Kamal Azad’s experience is not unusual.

It started when he responded to a recruitment advert in a Bangladeshi newspaper for chefs to come and work in London.

All his potential employer, Shamsul Arefin, asked for was a deposit of £15,000 to help to pay the sponsorship visa.

Azad borrowed heavily and came to London, where he was told the deal had changed and that he would now be going to Scotland. He and three other men were kept as slaves at the Stuart hotel in Appin, Fort William, paid a pittance, or often not at all.

The work was back-breaking, often seven days a week, often 20 hours a day.

If the men complained they were threatened with redundancy, and being deported, forced to go back home unable to pay debts.

Arefin was jailed for three years back in 2015. Azad is still paying off his debts.