The UK National Crime Agency estimates 3,309 potential victims of human trafficking came into contact with the State or an NGO in 2014. The latest government statistics derived from the UK National Referral Mechanism in 2014 reveal 2,340 potential victims of trafficking from 96 countries of origin, of whom 61 percent were female and 29 percent were children. Migrant workers in the UK are subjected to forced labour in agriculture, cannabis cultivation, construction, food processing, factories, domestic service, nail salons, food services, car washes, and on fishing boats. In Northern Ireland, migrants from Albania and Romania are particularly vulnerable to forced labour, including in agricultural work. Mike’s account highlights the lasting effects of the physical abuse experienced during enslavement and forced labour.
Mike was sleeping rough after the financial crisis when he was offered work near London. Mike, along with other men was forced to live in a shed and go round knocking on doors for jobs under the threat of physical abuse.
The financial crisis cost me my job. I slept rough. Two men approached me. They offered me work near London. I shared an old dirty shed with a tin roof with another man. Every day we were picked up by a van at 7am and then knocked on people’s doors asking if they wanted any work doing, digging patios or making drive-ways. We were picked- up at 9pm: if we didn’t get back in time, we’d get beaten. Everyone was afraid. Some got beaten up often, punched in the head or kicked. We worked 6 days a week unpaid. Someone tried to escape, but was beaten with a spanner. One Sunday the police raided. I had never heard of trafficking before. When I looked around, I saw how ill everyone looked, skinny and unwell, as if we had all been in a concentration camp. For the first time in my life I am now being cared for, thanks to the Salvation Army. I am still nervous of going out alone.
As told to the Human Trafficking Foundation