There are an estimated 3.6 million people living in modern slavery across Europe and Central Asia (GSI 2018). This region had a prevalence of 3.9 people in modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the region. Men, women and children are trafficked in to forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most widespread for of modern slavery with an 84% of victims trafficked for this purpose. The majority of those trafficked for this purpose are women and young girls who often originate from Eastern Europe within the EU as well as Sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority of people being trafficked from Nigeria to various parts of Europe including Italy, France, Spain and the UK through an array of complex trafficking networks.
Kate grew up in the UK with little support from her family. At the age of 18 she went to university, but hated it and soon left. She took up an invitation from a man she had gotten to know through an online forum to join him in Europe for a holiday. Once she arrived, she was locked in a room and forced in to prostitution. For over a year Kate was forced to provide sexual services, her passport was locked in a safe, along with the money she earned for him each day. One day, Kate was able to escape. Taking her passport and some money from the safe after having memorised the code, Kate bought a flight back to England and once she arrived, went to her previous social worker’s office who called the police. Six month later, Kate reached out to the Sophie Hayes Foundation saying she wished to be ‘normal’ again.
Having someone to actually just listen to me and talk to me and have time for me has been the best thing ever. It’s extremely lonely and having someone give me the time has meant I’m finally doing something with my life. Otherwise, I’d still be sat on my sofa doing nothing. All I wanted was someone to understand and just have a bit of time. Instead I was just left because I don’t make a fuss. Actually just human contact: It’s all I wanted really and I didn’t get it. Now I have someone who actually checks I’m alive every now and again has helped me cope. Even if we don’t talk every day, I know I could message them and they’d reply. I feel like I have someone there for me. They’re patient with me as well as telling me how it is. It’s the best privilege ever and I feel very lucky.
A lot of good things have happened since I left the situation I was in. I’m at university now and practically things are going well. I have somewhere to live, something to fill my time with, a group of people who check I’m okay and I’m building up a collection of personal items again. But I still find things difficult even though it’s been a year now. It doesn’t just get better just because it’s been two weeks or two months. I find it hard to look people in the eye, I don’t like being in the house on my own, I’m finding it hard to make friends, I couldn’t think of anything worse than a relationship, I feel really uncomfortable making decisions for myself and I don’t sleep well. I don’t feel confident and I feel ashamed about what happened. Moving on is a lot harder than I thought and I feel a very different person to the person I was before.
But things are better than they were. And I hope one day I will feel as important as other people and I hope one day I will start to feel safe again. Hope has become really important to me and it’s one of the things that gets me through each day
Narrative provided by The Sophie Hayes Foundation in their report ‘Becoming Hope: Stories, Reflections and Recommendations about Trafficking and Slavery Aftercare in the UK’.