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Women trafficked to Glasgow for sham marriages

June 29, 2017 ·  By Scotland for


Eastern European crime gangs are repeatedly forcing trafficked women into sexual exploitation and sham marriages, a BBC investigation found.

The programme, Humans for Sale, found one Slovakian girl who had been trafficked to Glasgow three times.

Many of the women were forced into sham marriages with men, mainly from Pakistan, who were seeking to apply for residency in the UK.

The women, who are EU citizens, are lured to the UK with false promises.

Sam Poling with victim Anna

Sam Poling with victim Anna

According to Angelika Molnar, who runs Europol’s human trafficking unit, the victims were encouraged to leave poverty and deprivation in countries such as Romania and Slovakia with the prospect of a well-paid job in Scotland.

“It’s only upon arrival that they are told there is no work available and they have to be engaged in marriages with Pakistani men,” she said.

Ms Molnar said the potential grooms wanted to stay in Scotland but needed marriage to an EU citizen to be able to apply for residency.

“After the marriage, the women are kept under control by the traffickers and are exploited as domestic service by the husband but also raped and sexually exploited by fellow nationals of the traffickers,” she said.

Ms Molnar said people were now the second most lucrative criminal commodity after drugs, with labour and sexual exploitation the most common reasons for trafficking to Scotland.

Scottish human trafficking expert Jim Laird told the BBC there was a “clear link” between Eastern European crime gangs and Asian organised crime in Glasgow.

Undercover investigation

The BBC sent investigative journalist Sam Poling undercover to expose the ruthless tactics used in the supply chain.

She travelled across Eastern Europe to track down victims sold to Glasgow gangs for sex.

In Slovakia she tried to track down some of the victims who had previously been trafficked to Glasgow before being rescued.

When she arrived at one girl’s house to interview her, she discovered the girl was missing.

Her parents said they believed she had been trafficked back to Glasgow, leaving her baby daughter behind.

In Slovakia, the parents of one girl believed she had been trafficked back to Glasgow, leaving her baby behind

In Slovakia, the parents of one girl believed she had been trafficked back to Glasgow, leaving her baby behind

At other houses, the BBC team discovered three other girls had also been trafficked back to Scotland.

They filmed one house in eastern Slovakia which was set up as a “transit house” by a man who bought girls and kept them there for a few days before transporting them to Glasgow for sham marriages.

Sam Poling at a "transit house" in eastern Slovakia

Sam Poling at a “transit house” in eastern Slovakia

The house was surrounded by a high padlocked fence and had cameras trained on the doors and windows.

Yves Ogou, who describes himself as a social worker, works closely with authorities in both Slovakia and Scotland to help rescue and support victims, particularly those sold to gangs in Glasgow for sham marriages.

He said of the transit house: “Some girls, they have no identity card, they have no passport.

“Here, within 24 hours we can fix normal identity cards or passports. You pay for that and you have your passport.

“In those two days the traffickers change the girls to make them look like really pretty girls because most of those girls are from Roma settlements.

“There’s no water, it’s a really difficult place to live. They have to look like normal human beings.”

Yves said Glasgow was specifically targeted by Slovakian traffickers because of historical links with Roma communities and their association with third-country nationals who wanted UK residency.

“Those people used to go to Glasgow because the first Roma community from here tried to move to Glasgow, Manchester, Bradford and so on,” he said.

“That’s their first contact and the traffickers, they have friends, they are friends to people from western Africa, people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and so on.”

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