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.
After losing his job due to his sexual orientation and the death of his mother, John fled Uganda after his family blamed him for her death. John travelled to Edinburgh with a friend who told him he could get a good job and have a better future. However, upon arrival his passport was confiscated and he was locked in a room for a month. John ran away after one of the men keeping him tried to force him to perform a sexual act. John was referred to Migrant Help who assisted in obtaining him refugee status.
My name is John and I am from Uganda. My father died when I was 12 years old and since then I had been supported by my mother. When I was around 15 years old I realized that I was gay. I was often threatened and harassed by other people because being homosexual in Uganda was forbidden. Anyone exposed could face imprisonment and torture.
I was expelled from school when they found out but I managed to continue my education and obtain a degree in IT. I was able to get a good job as a sales representative and buy my own car. But when my employer found out about my sexual orientation I was fired. After I lost my job, I moved back with my mother. But again, the rumours about me spread quickly and our neighbours started harassing her.
One night someone set fire to our house and my mother died inside. As if this was not heartbreaking enough, the rest of our family blamed me for her death and disowned me.
I was so unhappy and scared. The people who burnt down our house were looking for me in order to kill me. I didn’t know what to do. In the end, I contacted a friend who knew someone who could get me out of the country. I sold my car and managed to put together the $2000 I needed to pay for my travel, without knowing where I would end up. This person helped with my visa application and promised to take me to a place where I could have a good job and future.
In October 2013, I travelled together with this person and arrived at Edinburgh airport. After going through immigration, the trafficker took my passport. From the airport, I was taken to a flat where I saw some other men. I was locked in a room by myself and was only allowed out for 30 minutes a day to cook myself something to eat. I had no phone, TV, keys or contact with the other people staying at the flat.
I had lived like this for a month when one day a white man in his 40’s came and said he could help me. I was told to take all my belongings and go with him. We drove away and after some time he stopped and told me to perform a sexual act on him. I refused and he got very angry shouting that he had paid money for me. He tried to get into the back of the car where I was sitting but I managed to get out and ran away. I was completely lost and slept rough that night. The following day I asked a stranger on the street for help and he sent me to a local charity. When I told them about my situation, they referred me to Migrant Help.
Migrant Help advisers supported me in many ways. They assisted with my asylum claim by helping me to find a solicitor, they attended Home Office interviews with me and supported me during the Police investigation of my case. They provided financial support during a particularly difficult period in my life. On top of these essentials, they also arranged counselling for me which has helped me enormously in overcoming my traumatic experience.
Eventually, I was granted refugee status and was able to start rebuilding my life. I have managed to make friends and I now live in a rented flat with one of them. I have a good job working in a call centre and have continued my studies. I am taking driving lessons and I am really looking forward to buying myself a second-hand car!
I constantly thank Migrant Help for their help and support – both mental and financial. I call my adviser my ‘lucky mascot’. My life has changed so much and without their support, I would never have had the confidence to move on and make these changes.
Courtesy of Migrant Help UK