There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery in 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.
Jane was trafficked from Northern Africa to London into domestic slavery.
When I was 13 years old, I was taken away from my family. I was trafficked through Northern African to London, to become a domestic slave for another African family. I didn’t know what was happening and I never expected this to be my life for the next eleven years.
My life was not my own anymore. I had to wake up at 5 am every day to prepare the family breakfast and would not stop working until at least 9 pm every evening.
I was not allowed to walk around the house unless it was to work. I had to stay in the room in which I was working, and had to sleep in the children’s room. I was also not allowed to eat my meals with the family. I had no friends and was not allowed to speak to anyone. I was only permitted to write to my mother occasionally at the control of the family who had enslaved me. If I refused to do the work that was given to me, I was threatened.
After ten years, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was when I was out food shopping for the family that I just slumped to the floor. I was desperate. A stranger stopped and asked what was wrong. I was scared to talk to her, as I was not allowed to talk to anyone that hadn’t been approved by my enslavers, but I was so depressed and isolated that I let the lady take me for a cup of tea. She was nice and became my only friend.
After one year, I decided that I could trust her and told her about my enslavement and long-term abuse. She gave me the courage to talk to the police and together we informed them of what had happened and I was finally rescued from my life of imprisonment.
I have been looked after by Migrant Help now for nearly a year and I am happy to say that my life has completely changed. This last Christmas was joyous. I had turkey and presents, and I went to church. I am now training to be an accountant and I spend all my free time at the library learning. I have a friend who wiped away my tears, prayed with me in the hard times and looks after me very well.
I have forgiven the traffickers for what they did to me. All the pain and anger has left me. I am happy now. I don’t cry anymore.
In fact, I have now recorded a song about my journey to freedom. The first time I performed it, my Migrant Help case-worker and her team came to support me.
Narrative provided by Migrant Help