TWO men have been arrested and a 15-year-old girl taken into care after a Helensburgh business was raided as part of a national operation to tackle human trafficking.
The teenager was found at Nail Art in Sinclair Street during the raid on Monday.
The discovery was made during of a national day of action involving around 500 officers from police and partner agencies who visited 80 fisheries, car washes and nail bars across Scotland.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Immigration Enforcement officers supported Police Scotland on an operation on May 15.
“At Nail Art, Sinclair Street, Helensburgh, two Vietnamese men were arrested, aged 26 and 43, who had both entered the UK illegally.
“The 26-year-old is detained pending removal from the UK and the 43-year-old has been ordered to report regularly to Immigration Enforcement while his case is progressed. A minor was encountered and Police Scotland referred her into the care of Social Services.
“Nail Art has been served with a notice warning that a financial penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker may be imposed on the employer unless evidence is provided that appropriate right to work document checks were carried out, such as seeing a passport or Home Office document.
The operation was part of an ongoing response to the threat of modern slavery and human trafficking across the UK.
Police told the Advertiser that as a result of the operation a youth had been removed from a local business premises for being in breach of Home Office immigration guidelines, but that enquiries into the circumstances were continuing.
Detective Superintendent Stuart Houston from Police Scotland said: “People who exploit others have no conscience. They will exploit children and adults. Our intention is to stop them.
“I would encourage people to be aware of what is happening in their community, to have social and ethical awareness, and to report concerns that someone may be a victim of trafficking to Police Scotland.”
A spokeswoman for the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce said there have been a number of occasions in the past where people suspected of immigration offences have been removed from local business premises.
She added: “Clearly it’s not something we are happy about.
“It doesn’t do any good to Helensburgh’s reputation, which we as a chamber are all trying very hard to build."
Maurice Corry, West of Scotland Conservative MSP and Helensburgh resident, said: “Human trafficking is an abhorrent practice and I’m pleased that the police and immigration authorities are taking action against it.
“I don’t want to see our area linked in any way to human trafficking, which was the subject of a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week and was roundly condemned by all MSPs.
“Our thoughts should also be with the care of anyone innocently caught up in trafficking, particularly children, and I hope the authorities take all action required to protect those caught up in the practice.”
The discovery in Helensburgh follows an incident in January in which a 16-year-old Vietnamese boy was found “cowering in the bushes” in Alexandria after escaping from a group of human traffickers.