The Co-op Group will be offering a victim of modern slavery a job at one of its shops in Scotland.
The initiative forms part an innovative employment programme called Bright Future, developed by the Group last year to support those affected by modern slavery.
The victim, who will be named Frank (not his real name), is the first in Scotland to be offered a permanent job. Under the Bright Future scheme the retailer provides a four-week placement followed by a non-competitive interview. Successful candidates are then offered a job within the Co-op Food businesses.
Frank moved to the UK from Romania in November 2014 after being contacted by a childhood friend living in the UK. The acquaintance sent him a flight to Glasgow where he was met by a male who took him to an address in the city.
Once there, he was forced to open bank accounts for the group to use. He sold all of his belongings to get money for a deposit, moved out and changed his telephone number to avoid the group contacting him. Once he contacted the police for support he was put in touch with Migrant Help.
“It is clear that victims need to be supported while they rebuild their lives, and central to that is the dignity that paid, freely chosen employment provides. Without this, there is a real chance that they could fall back into the hands of those who have exploited them and for the terrible, unspeakable cycle of enslavement to begin again.”
John Merralls, head of human trafficking and victims of slavery support services at Migrant Help said: “Migrant Help is fully supportive of the Bright Future programme. Employment is a very important part of regaining self-confidence and sense of independence for survivors of human trafficking.
“We know how keen our clients are to work and be able to support themselves and their families. We are very pleased to see Frank enjoying his job. Migrant Help looks forward to continuous partnership with Co-op, offering this opportunity to more survivors.”
Cabinet secretary for justice Michael Matheson said: “I am very pleased that Frank has been able to find genuine employment away from the clutches of human traffickers.
“The Scottish government is continuing to tackle this crime with tougher laws and alerting the public through our awareness campaign. I would urge anyone who suspects trafficking activity in their community to report it – you could help save someone from a life of miserable servitude.”
Launched last year, the Bright Future programme has helped 15 survivors of modern slavery, who have already secured a job with the Co-op in England. Another 19 are at various stages within the scheme.