Scotland is taking nurses away from developing countries to plug shortfalls in staffing, a union has claimed.
The union raised concerns over recruitment
Unison said that an increase in nurses coming from overseas shows there is no "ethical recruitment" strategy.
Jim Devine, Unison's Scottish health organiser, said it highlighted problems in recruiting and retaining staff.
But the Scottish Executive said only a few Scottish trusts have recruited directly from overseas and that it was committed to increasing nurse numbers.
Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show nurses recruited from abroad have risen for a number of countries over the past four years.
Between 1998/9 and 2002/3 the number coming to the UK from Nigeria went up from 179 to 509, while those from Zimbabwe went up from 52 to 485.
Staff coming from Kenya rose from 19 to 152 and Zambia from 15 to 133.
Mr Devine said: "This quite frankly is abuse. These countries have healthcare problems of their own.
"If we are recruiting their nurses, we are recruiting from developing countries, which is not an ethical nurse recruitment policy.
"This dramatic increase in nurse recruitment from developing countries in the past four years, just highlights the major problems that we have here in Scotland in recruiting and retaining nurses.
But an executive spokeswoman dismissed the claims.
She said: "NHS boards in Scotland follow very closely ethical good practice guidelines when considering overseas recruitment.
"The executive is committed to building the capacity of the nursing and midwifery workforce and we remain on target to achieve the partnership agreement commitment to bring in 12,000 nurses and midwives to NHS Scotland by 2007.
"We have in place various linked recruitment and retention initiatives that are helping us achieve this target."
The union has called on the issue of ethical nurses recruitment to be revisited.
The Code of Practice for International Recruitment, developed with NHS employers, professional bodies, trade unions and commercial recruitment agencies, was introduced in 2001.