HUNDREDS of victims of sex trafficking have been recovered and helped by Glasgow’s dedicated trafficking support service, the Evening Times can reveal.

The Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) has supported more than 200 suspected victims of sexual exploitation who have found their way to the city over the past decade.

Between April 2015 and March 20-16, 33 new victims of trafficking were identified and referred to the Glasgow-based service, however staff predict there to be an increase this year.

It comes after we reported on an alleged human trafficking ring which was was busted in Govanhill last week.

Many of the 16 women who were previously recovered by police were supported by TARA. In the most extreme cases women, typically Nigerian, Vietnamese, Albanian and Chinese, have escaped from their abusers not even knowing what country they are in, never mind how to get help.

TARA staff warn the figures are “just the tip of the iceberg”, with an estimated 1300 victims of trafficking and modern slavery thought to be in Scotland at any one time.

The organisation, which is run by Glasgow City Council and funded by the Scottish Government, was initially set up in 2004 to help victims from Glasgow, but due to the surge in demand for help they expanded to cover the whole of Scotland in 2007.

Survivors, who range between 16-years-old and their late 50s, have told of how they were raped, beaten and abused by their traffickers and warned if they fled they would be hunted down and killed, while others have had threats to their families and children back home.

They thought they were moving abroad to start a better life, only to find out they were being forced into prostitution, and sham marriage.

Bronagh Andrew, TARA’s coordinator, explained: “Once here, women will be told what’s going to happen to them.

“They may refuse and are subject to sexual assaults, physical assaults, they have been raped.

“Women talk about being forced to watch pornography so they know how to behave with the people who are paying for sex.”

Bronagh explained one woman she helped had jumped out of a car in Glasgow’s city centre in a desperate attempt to escape her abusers.

She had no clue where she was and no idea how to get help.

Bronagh said: “Years ago we had a young woman who escaped from a car in traffic lights and it was a Subway sandwich shop she ran into.

“She thought she was in Toronto.

“If you don’t even know what part of the world you’re in, you don’t have English as your language then taking a step through the door is scary.

“Traffickers may have told you over months that they will find you, they’ll kill you, they’ll kill your family or you’ll be put in jail.

“You don’t even know where to tell the police or how to tell them where you’ve been. It’s a real challenge.”

MEMBERS of the public are being urged to help spot the signs of trafficking, which are often difficult to detect due to victims being constantly moved around.

In some cases, residents may complain to their local councillors about men ringing their doorbells late at night, or hearing footsteps constantly in a neighbours home but never seeing anyone leave.

Bronagh said: “These women are hiding in plain sight.

“People are seeing them but they are not identifying them. It’s in the traffickers interest that they are not identified, so we want to improve awareness.

“People don’t know what to do.

“Quite often people will think something is a bit off about a situation, but they won’t want to call the police and say ‘I hear footsteps upstairs but I never see anyone.’ or ‘I think something gives me the creeps about upstairs.”

For the women who do manage to escape, the journey to recovery and getting their lives back is a long and painful one, with often complex challenges requiring months or years of work.

They suffer post-traumatic stress, have flashbacks, headaches and unexplained body pains as a result of the weeks, months or sometimes years of abuse they have endured.

OFTEN victims are in their late stages of pregnancy or have complex physical or mental health problems when they come to TARA, having been turfed out of brothels as they would draw too much attention in their condition.

“Women come to us in the late stages of pregnancy and who have had no antenatal care, no treatment at all and no access to services,” said Bronagh.

“We have had women who have had their children taken in to the next room by the traffickers when a punter arrives, and they can hear their child screaming.

“They’re expected to have sex in those conditions. It is used as a tool to keep her under control.”

The long road to recovery is helped by TARA, who typically support victims for 12-18 months once they are referred.

“What we find is that when women get out of that situation, the majority don’t return back into prostitution,” said Bronagh.

“While there’s a lot of stuff they have to get over, they show amazing resilience and strength.

“They want to do what they

thought they would be coming here to do.

“Most of them make a claim for asylum and they can fully access services and education here, which they make the most of.”

If you want to report suspicions about trafficking or need help,

contact uk Modern Slavery Helpline

on 08000 121 700, Police Scotland

on 101, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.