There are an estimated 794,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Russia (GSI 2018). Forced labour remains the predominant form of human trafficking in the country. Many migrant workers experience exploitative labour conditions characteristic of trafficking cases, such as withholding of identity documents, non-payment for services rendered, physical abuse, lack of safety measures, or extremely poor living conditions. Women and children are also subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in prostitution and pornography.
Medina*, a 15-year-old girl from Kazakhstan was trafficked after being sold by her parents. The man who bought her forged her birth certificate and took her to Russia where she was forced to do domestic work and was subjected to sexual exploitation.
I lived in a village in Kazakhstan. Now I am 15. Before, I lived with my family. We were five children. My father drank all the time and practically did no work. He had no permanent job. He just worked occasionally. My mother did not work at all, and also drank constantly. She used to disappear for a week, forgetting about us. I was the eldest. My youngest brother is two years old. As you can understand, we had no money. People were giving us second-hand clothes, to enable us to wear something, everybody laughed at us. I didn’t go to school every day because I had to look after the children when my mother left and my father drank. Because my mother left us all the time, my father beat her and us. Once my younger brother even found himself in a hospital with a concussion of the brain. A year ago, a middle-aged man came to us.
I do not know [why he came], maybe somebody told him about our family condition, that we were living very poorly. And he decided to make a profit out of it. When he came, my father was tipsy. He told my father: “Do you want money, a good life?” “Who doesn’t?” [the father replied.] And he [the trafficker] said, “Let me take your eldest daughter. I will look after her, I will take her with me to Russia, she will work there and earn good money, then she will come back and arrange with you.” My father probably decided to take this chance. The man had made a good impression”
I do not know [how old he was]. In my view about 30-35.
Yes, he was Slavic. Any my father agreed. I begged him not to let me go.
There were no papers, they agreed orally. The man gave my father money, not much, about 200 dollars. For my father this sum appeared large and he agreed. The man took away my birth certificate. I think he had fabricated documents, needed for my trip to Russia. I didn’t know, he did everything. He also said that if somebody asked me, I should say that I was his daughter. While on the train, he treated me well. I even began thinking that he was really a good man and that he really would give me work and my dreams would come true and I could help my brothers and sisters to stand on their own feet. When we arrived in Moscow I was taken aback, everything seemed so beautiful to me. I had never seen such a large city. He took me to a big house. The furniture was very nice there. At first I lived well there. He would leave and lock me up, but I paid no attention to it. I was thinking about how everything was well. Then he came back and said: “We found work for you, let’s go”. And we went, at first on the metro, then by train. It was rather long. We left the city. When we left the train, an expensive car was waiting for us. We drove to some village, like mine in Kazakhstan. Although when we arrived in the middle of the village, all the buildings were twostoried and looked expensive. We approached one of them and entered. There were many men and women there, they were well dressed. He [the trafficker] approached a man. I watched with interest. He began counting money, then came to me and said, “This is your boss, you will work for him”. At first I was afraid. The new boss, whose name was Mikhail, acquainted me with another man who was required to watch me. He was called Vasilisa.
Yes [he was a boy], he was a warden, he watched workers at home. We were servants, perhaps. He constantly watched me while I worked. I washed dishes there. At the beginning work was easy. But later the boss began to treat me somewhat differently. He began inviting me to his room, making advances on me, and then raped me. At first it occurred seldom, then he began coming each day. And he constantly made advances.
Yes [in addition to household tasks he forced me to work sexually].
No [I was not paid]. I began asking them, why am I working and not being paid? He [the boss] said: “We spent a lot on your travel, here you live and eat, you have everything. It turns out that you are our debtor.” At that moment I under stood that I would be kept here until the end of my days. And they would go on using me. I had a girl friend there. She said that they also kept her for a long time and was also told that she was in debt. She was in the same position as me. And the boss made advances on her in the same way. It was impossible to escape. I didn’t live in the house, but in a little shed, it was my room, there was nothing in it but a mattress. I came into the house only to clean and wash dishes. But I lived in the shed. I ate what was left by the owners [of the house]. When guests came the food was better. Once when guests came I decided to run away. The guests had all become drunk and paid no attention to the servants. The gates were open. I did not know the locality, as I had never been to Russia before. I left the house, ran to the highway and some good people, lorry drivers, helped me. I did not know where to go. I wanted to go to Kazakhstan, but I had no documents, nothing. The driver said that he would only drive to Omsk. We agreed that if he drove me there I would sleep with him. I even agreed to it. I just wanted to go far away and then somehow to reach home.
I do not even know [what my plans for the future are]. I’ve decided to make the same sacrifice in order to get home.
No, when I was working in the house one friend of mine told me that she had an opportunity to run away and to contact the police. But when she did, a policeman took her back to her boss. And the boss beat her cruelly. And she was told that if she ran away once more, he would find her whenever she was and kill her. I do not know what to do.
Yes [I am afraid of the police].
Yes [I am planning to return home]. Although it was bad there. But I now believe that it was much better at home than here.
I think that there is no other word for this situation other than slavery. I would be most grateful if you can help, if not me, maybe others like me who find themselves in the same situation
Narrative credit to International Labour Organization
Original narrative found in report ‘Forced Labour in the Russian Federation Today: Irregular Migration and Trafficking in Human Beings’