There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery un the United Kingdom (Global Slavery Index 2018). According to the 2017 annual figures provided by the National Crime Agency, 5, 145 potential victims of modern slavery were referred through the National Referral Mechanism in 2017, of whom 2,454 were female, 2688 were male and 3 were transgender, with 41% of all referrals being children at the time of exploitation. People are subjected to slavery in the UK in the form of domestic servitude, labour exploitation, organ harvesting and sexual exploitation, with the largest number of potential victims originating from Albania, China, Vietnam and Nigeria. This data however does not consider the unknown numbers of victims that are not reported.
Mo was living in Myanmar (Burma) when he was forced to leave after the persecution of Muslim people. He was staying in a refugee camp with his family which he describes as a ‘prison’. After running away he travelled by lorry to the UK. He was put in to a house and forced to work in a restaurant for little pay and no days off. Mo is now in a safe house, waiting for his passport and papers to be able to work.
Running, running, running, running. Half life is gone like running. Still now I am running. Sometimes like it’s like… I don’t accept this life running, running, running and you’re stuck. In this country everybody say freedom but we have no freedom, you know?
We have no freedom like, I don’t accept this life.
Burma, I was born in Burma, Myanmar, six years I stayed in Burma and after like, they were killing Muslim people. Burmese people don’t like Muslim people. And they tried to kill everybody, so everybody ran away. Then I came with my family to Bangladesh because Bangladesh and Burma are very close. So, then we stayed in a refugee camp there. And I was living there like eight years.
When I was fourteen years like jumping like run away. Camp? Oh my God…it’s like, good for a prison, honest. It’s like: one bedroom, a small bedroom. You’re living with your: father, mother, sister. And you have to do your cooking in the same place.
They give you something to do like cleaning like you have to clean the garden. You brush the field, you know. And if you don’t do it… like, they will torture your body. They will torture your body and if you make anything bad, they will torture your body.
Yeah, I did run away.
Because I think if they shoot me it’s good for me. Because I spend every day… it’s like… very hard, you know?
No food, one room, no freedom, no life…then I would run away. Then I have no choice, honestly yeah.
Then I came here, like, by lorry. One month I travelled you know? By lorry I came into this country like hiding. Then they put me in to one house like… two years I put up with that I was like… cleaning, cooking, serving, moving…everything like…
Then after two years I finished, they put me in to a restaurant. So, I worked in the restaurant for two weeks and after I saw that they only paid me twenty pounds for two weeks with no day off.
Everyday, like twelve to fourteen hours. We were paid for 96-98 hours of work. They only paid twenty pounds. I didn’t know the regulation. I didn’t have a passport, I didn’t have any papers. I couldn’t speak English.
I’ve always enjoyed it. When I am cooking, I will be singing and dancing. The future actually is like waiting I tell you. Waiting for my passport, and my papers. If my passport comes, I can work, and I can go to Bangladesh looking for my family.
Narrative provided by As Seen from the Sidecar