"Edward" was beaten, degraded and made to work long hours in forced labour in the UK. At one point he was sold by one man to another man for £300. He was removed from a situation of exploitation by the specialist investigators of the charity Hope for Justice.
The British Government estimates that there are around 13,000 people in modern day slavery in the UK today. Over 3,000 people, including nearly 1,000 children, were referred to British authorities as potential victims of slavery in 2015, a 40% increase on the previous year. The most common countries of origin were from Albania, Nigeria and Vietnam.
I needed to earn enough money for my daughter for her school, and I was told about a good job in England, so me and two others took it. We were picked up and driven to a port; we went on a ferry to England. When we arrived they said we were going to work for good money, so we worked very hard, for long hours, to finish the job well. But when we finished, we never got paid. Instead we were locked up.
They forced us to do more work. They would beat us and threaten us if we didn’t finish the work. We couldn’t go anywhere because they took our passports, ID and money. We were stuck. I felt hopeless, totally powerless. We would fix up houses, do gardening … I had to move heavy things that I could not even lift. I had to work from the early morning until very, very late 7 days a week. All we were given was some tobacco, alcohol, bread and butter for the week, so that’s how we lived.
At this time, I knew I was a slave.
I felt very sick, hungry and tired all the time. I was sold, from person to person, bartered for right in front of my face. I heard one man say I wasn’t even worth £300. I felt worthless. Like rubbish on the floor. I wished that I could die, that it could all be behind. I just wanted a painless death.
I finally decided I would rather be killed trying to escape than stay.
I knew one man who lived a long way away. I had no money or transport so I had to walk as fast as I could or they would catch me. My legs are bad because they beat me but I had to keep going. I walked for 10 days straight with no stopping. I walked about 200 miles, but I was very scared and lost so walked a lot extra.
Look! These are the shoes I found, they are the wrong size but they are all I had!
When I was walking all I could think about was [the traffickers]. They are chasing me, they will find me. I was very worried. I was very worried. I thought of my daughter too. I had let her down so much. I felt shameful. I was very cold, hungry and alone. I couldn’t find help anywhere. Eventually I reached the city of my friend, but had no way to find him.
I knew this was the end for me.
I was very happy when I met with Hope for Justice. I knew someone was going to help me! They gave me new clothes, food and a very comfortable bed. They took me to London to get a new passport. Hope for Justice have been very good to me. I didn’t expect any help, I thought I was finished.
I am so happy to be free, to be alive!
Narrative as told to Hope for Justice.