The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016, an estimated 3.6 million men, women and chidlren were living in modern slavery in Europe and Central Asia (GSI 2018). People are subjected to exploitation in forced labour, debt bondage and forced sexual exploitation. Government response in Europe is particularly strong with a number of regional bodies holding them account and monitoring responses, and while countries in Central Asia have taken steps to tack modern slavery, more needs to be done.
First trafficked at the age of five with her parents out of Vietnam into China, she and her family were promised a better life. At the age of 15, Thanh had to sleep with so many men it left her with permanent damage to her spine. She was trafficked to Russia to pick fruit, across a continent to France for sex work in a forest encampment: separated from her 11-year-old son and thrown into a refrigerated lorry to be smuggled to England. In London, she was taken to a basement for sex work and labour packing vegetables. One day she seized an opportunity to flee barefoot. Undocumented, Thanh was afraid to go to the police and only received help after a lump in her breast made her go to a doctor. Eventually she was recognised as a victim of modern slavery and with the help of the British Red Cross was reunited with her son.
It was really difficult, at one point I think if there is a tablet for me to take, for me to die, to escape, I probably would take it.
Basically we have no choice and I remember that they beat me so hard that I believed I was going to die. And my parents was there witnessing it and we were so scared ever since.
After 15 years old, they like me to sleep with other men...sometimes 10, sometimes more than 10 in one day. Now I found out that my back joint, the bone has been dislocated, there was a lot of pressure behind my back partly because how I’ve been used as a sex slave back in China.
I was told that if I disobeyed an order, that they will take out my organs.
[At the age of 23 Thanh was then trafficked to Russia, France and the United Kingdom, being forced to leave her son behind]
I remember that night I hugged my son and told him ‘if there is a chance for you to escape, run, run don’t think about me don’t think about anything, run. Because if they still hold you, they will hit you, they will beat you up again’.
[She was brought to London to be kept in a basement for sex work as well as labour packing vegetables. Seizing a chance, one day she escaped, running barefoot away from her traffickers]
There’s lots of things I want to do. I want to get a job, I want to go back and see Vietnam and explore places, holiday. It’s just a thought but I’d like to do it one day.
Narrative as told to reported for The Independent. All credit given.