Trafficked women face too many barriers to accessing their human rights. Despite international and European standards that ensure trafficking survivors’ right to legal guidance when accessing support services, the legal system often remains inaccessible and the coverage of support services is frequently inadequate. The EU project Early Legal Intervention, in which JustRight Scotland was involved, found that survivors of trafficking often have particular difficulties in the early stages of accessing justice and support. There is a lack of accessible and clear information on how to move forward.
JustRight Scotland aims to address these issues through our specialist work in anti-trafficking and exploitation. We are a legal charity that supports various social justice collaborations to reduce inequality and promote human rights and justice. As we have particular expertise in the field of human trafficking and exploitation, this has become one of our focus areas.
Our work with TARA
We are currently piloting JRS@TARA which is an early legal information and advice hub that provides legal support to female trafficking survivors. We are working together with TARA (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance) which is a support service for trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation survivors in Scotland. This service (funded by the Scottish Government) provides holistic support that is adapted to each individual’s needs. TARA’s support can include crisis accommodation, care planning, psychology services, support in speaking to police authorities, and referrals to access legal services. TARA is now also funded to support women who have been sexually exploited as per the S4 ‘Exploitation’ offence in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scot) Act 2015 – meaning the service is now available for even more women in need of support.
Legal advice may be needed in a multitude of areas for a woman reaching out to TARA, including identification of human trafficking through the National Referral Mechanism, engagement with the criminal justice process, immigration advice, compensation, and access to safe housing and other essential entitlements. Through the Hub, we provide appointments for legal advice in all of these areas. Our specialist anti-trafficking lawyer provides free legal advice and information appointments to female survivors of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, in order to ensure better access to services and protection, as well as gateways to strategic legal interventions. Thanks to funding from Tumbling Lassie (a Scottish appeal raising funds and awareness for anti-slavery and anti-trafficking charities), TARA are also able to provide interpreters during these appointments.
It is important to note that a survivor may have need of additional legal support for issues such as child protection and family reunion. That is why we stress the importance of providing holistic legal support early on in order to ensure effective guidance to the appropriate services. It is also important that this early advice is as accessible as possible, which is why the Hub is placed as part of the existing TARA service.
Our Work in Child Trafficking and Advocacy
JustRight Scotland also has expertise in the area of child trafficking and exploitation. Through our project JustRight for Refugee Children, we represent child survivors of trafficking, working together with the Scottish Guardianship Service to provide targeted advice and representation. Our collaboration with the Scottish Guardianship Service provides an integrated and streamlined legal advice and advocacy service with the child at its centre. By linking specialist legal intervention with independent advocacy, we ensure that the child is better able to understand the legal processes through which they are going, and that a relationship of trust is built which allows them to make their voices heard throughout.
Beyond providing direct support services, JustRight Scotland has also been active in advocating for improved policies in relation to trafficking and exploitation. Our lawyer Kirsty Thomson wrote a chapter in the book Human Trafficking: The Complexities of Exploitation (Margaret Malloch and Paul Rigby, 2016), which contributed to the drafting of best practice standards in an EU funded project in the area of Early Legal Intervention for survivors of human trafficking.
Kirsty Thomson has also been invited as an expert to train and speak throughout Europe. In the last year, she has spoken at the first national conference on human trafficking of Police Scotland and participated on an expert panel for the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) consultation on its draft recommendations to facilitate the gender-specific implementation of particular provisions of the Anti-Trafficking Directive. Additionally, she has attended a high-level expert meeting at the OSCE in Warsaw to discuss the update of the OSCE handbook on National Referral Mechanisms. We consider our influencing work to be part and parcel of our mission, as influencing policy in the right direction means ensuring that more and better support will become available for trafficking survivors in the future.
Our mission is to fill gaps in human rights protection through working across sectors to achieve true collaborative social justice. Human trafficking and exploitation is an area where the need for this specialist holistic approach is particularly tangible. In a dynamic and frequently volatile legal and policy context, the provision of early, accessible and rights-based legal support for trafficking survivors is of vital importance. We at JustRight Scotland will continue to work for the development of better support services for trafficking and exploitation survivors and to find new ways of ensuring that this support is available and accessible to all who need it.