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. Of those identified through the NRM, the majority were adults classified as victims of sexual exploitation followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation. The largest proportion of victims was from Albania, followed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Slovakia.
Ada moved to the London with her boyfriend 'Paul' hoping to start a new life and go back to school. Paul's uncle picked them up from the airport, and they were to stay at his for a while. However, upon arrival Paul left. His uncle raped Ada and told her Paul had gone back to Sierra Leone and she had to work as a prostitute. Locked up at all times and subjected to physical abuse daily, Ada was finally able to escape on New Year when she ran out the back door.
Life in Sierra Leone was difficult. My father beat me a lot when I was growing up and yelled at me all the time. When I decided to convert to Christianity my parents threw me out of the house, so I went to live with a friend and worked in a restaurant to support myself. I was quite happy to be living independently.
I had been with my boyfriend Paul* for about six months and we often talked about moving abroad to find work and get married; we were in love. Paul suggested that we move to the UK because he had an uncle there. I thought it would be a good opportunity to start a new life and maybe go back to school so that I could become a teacher.
Paul arranged everything and we travelled together to London. I carried my own papers and travel documents. I was happy and excited to be going to London to start my life with Paul.
Paul’s uncle picked us up from the airport and we went to a house together. Paul said that he was going out for a bit and that I should stay with his uncle; after Paul left his uncle raped me. I was devastated and felt helpless. A few hours later his uncle came into the room and said that Paul had gone back to Sierra Leone and that I had to work as a prostitute until I had paid back the £5,000 it cost to bring me here. He raped me again and told me that he would keep doing it until I agreed to pay back the money. I couldn’t believe that Paul could do this to me. I was devastated.
I was taken to a brothel and made to work there for six months. One time after a few months, Paul called me. He wanted me to know that if I tried to escape or went back to Sierra Leone, he would find me and hurt me. I asked how he could do this to me; he laughed and said that his uncle owned me now.
There were five other women at the brothel. I had to have sex with two or three men a day and I was kept locked in at all times. I had to see customers at whatever time they came to the brothel, so I was often woken up in the middle of the night. The men who ran the brothel threatened me and often hit me, so I was afraid to say no. I was also afraid to ask the customers for help because the men at the brothel told me that they would find out and beat me. At first I used to cry a lot, but after a few months I realised there was no point because nobody would help me.
Usually the customers wanted safe sex, but sometimes they wouldn’t use a condom. They paid more when they wanted this. I saw a lot of bad things whilst I was at the brothel. I saw the other women being beaten and raped. I was raped too.
I escaped at New Year, when the men held a New Year’s Eve party. This was the first time that the door wasn’t locked, so when nobody was looking I ran out of the back door.
I slept in a park for a few nights before a woman asked me if I was ok. I told her about the brothel and Paul; she took me to a police station because she said that there are people who can help me.
The police spoke to Eaves’ Poppy Project and the same day I moved into one of their safe houses. I had a support worker at Poppy who was really nice and went with me to appointments with the police, solicitor and doctor. I felt sad for a while, but after a few months I made some friends in the Poppy house and began to think that I would be ok. Eaves encouraged me to go to some art and drama classes to build my confidence and they also helped me to claim asylum because I can’t go back to Sierra Leone.
I recently moved into my own flat and am now at college and on my way to becoming a teacher; the reason I came to the UK. I will be eternally grateful to Eaves for helping me put my life back together.”
As told to Eaves for Women Poppy Project