The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, recently announced that the Reflection Period of support for victims of trafficking in Scotland will increase from 45 to 90 days, with the intention of protecting the most vulnerable members of society. Michael Matheson said the extended period is triple the Council of Europe minimum time and twice as long as the rest of the UK.
The change to the Reflection Period in Scotland, was made after consultation with victims’ groups and other justice agencies, and is a key part of a new strategy launched in May 2017, aimed at eliminating human trafficking in Scotland.
Addressing a Holyrood debate on trafficking, Matheson said: “Trading adults and children as commodities is an abhorrent crime which degrades victims and causes lasting physical and psychological damage. There were 150 victims of trafficking supported in Scotland last year, each person suffering abuse and exploitation over weeks, months or even years. This cannot continue in our communities. We are working hard to make Scotland an increasingly hostile place for those who traffic other human beings, while also improving the support we provide to victims. We have been listening to groups working directly with victims and I am pleased that we will now double the length of support available for adult victims to 90 days.”
The previous 45-day support period in Scotland, has been repeatedly highlighted by the Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group (the ATMG a coalition of anti-slavery organisations established to monitor the UK’s implementation of European anti-trafficking legislation) and other UK NGOs, as inadequate for most survivors where the complex and often lengthy process of recovering from the trauma of being trafficked can take months and even years.
The Reflection Period was mentioned for the first time in an EU Council Directive in 2004, on residence permits for victims of trafficking (EU Council Directive 2004/81/EC of 29 April 2004).
A comparative analysis of reflection periods and related temporary residence permits for victims of trafficking in the Nordic countries, Belgium and Italy, entitled ‘’Balancing Protection and Prosecution in anti-trafficking Policies,’’ is available at https://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/sites/antitrafficking/files/balancing_protection_and_prosecution_in_anti-trafficking_policies_1.pdf
Prepared by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications Person.