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. Mark was unemployed and looking for work when he was offered a job and a place to stay. However, he soon found himself trafficked into forced labour. He worked long hours doing laborious work and was not paid. He was trafficked in the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.
The Netherlands is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. It is estimated that around 175, 000 people are living in conditions of modern slavery in the country. It is reported that many women are trafficked within the country in to forced prostitution. Victims are often trafficked by so called ‘pimp boys’ or ‘lover boys’ – men who seduce young women and girls, gaining their trust and then forcing them in to commercial sexual exploitation. Sameena was 18 years old when she left home and became homeless. Sameena got a job in the catering agency where she met her boyfriend, Jim. One evening Jim invited Sameena to his apartment, where she arrived to a number of his male friends. That night was the first time she was raped. After that, for two years Sameena was forced to work as a prostitute. Even after physically escaping, Sameena still struggled to mentally free herself from her past exploitation. In this narrative Sameena tells of how running helped her overcome her past trauma
Despite having the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, Europe remains a destination, and to a lesser extent, a source region for the exploitation of men, women and children in forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. According to the most recent Eurostat findings, European Union (EU) citizens account for 65 percent of identified trafficked victims within Europe. These individuals mostly originate from Eastern Europe, including Romania, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. Mark Ovenden is a survivor of modern slavery. In an interview with the BBC, he recounts how he was offered accommodation and employment just outside his hometown in Southern England. At the time – Sept. 2009 – he had no job and was eating out of soup kitchens, so he jumped at the chance to earn some money. But things did not turn out as Ovenden expected. Between Sept. 2009 and April 2010, he moved with the family to different areas in the U.K., Holland and Sweden where he was forced to work for either no money or minimal pay. The work – taking up and laying driveways – was physical, repetitive and generally involved labouring for long hours. Ovenden, who said he had no support network of friends or family at the time, soon became completely dependent on his bosses.
Though Europe has the lowest regional prevalence of modern slavery in the world, it is estimated that 17,500 people are enslaved in the Netherlands. Enslaved people within Europe originate predominantly from Eastern European countries, with forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation remaining the most commonly reported forms of slavery. Cases of forced labour have been reported across Europe in agriculture, forestry, fishery, construction, catering, the textile industry and domestic work. Within cases formally identified by EU authorities the largest proportion of registered human trafficking victims were female, making up around 80% of all victims. Tatiana travelled to the Netherlands with her boyfriend to find work. Upon arrival they were met by who she though was her boyfriend’s friend and taken to a flat where they were going to stay. However, when she got to the flat she was told he had been sold to work as a prostitute. Threatening her family if she refused, Tatiana was forced to work as a prostitute in Amsterdam for 6 months.
The UK National Crime Agency estimates 3,309 potential victims of human trafficking came into contact with the State or an NGO in 2014. The latest government statistics derived from the UK National Referral Mechanism in 2014 reveal 2,340 potential victims of trafficking from 96 countries of origin, of whom 61 percent were female and 29 percent were children. Migrant workers in the UK are subjected to forced labour in agriculture, cannabis cultivation, construction, food processing, factories, domestic service, nail salons, food services, car washes, and on fishing boats. In Northern Ireland, migrants from Albania and Romania are particularly vulnerable to forced labour, including in agricultural work. Mark was forced to work under conditions of slavery in the UK, the Netherlands, and Sweden. He was rescued by the Swedish police.
Born in Albania, "Maria" was trafficked into Italy, France, and the Netherlands. Closing the door on slavery seems almost impossible: “The shame for our parents and us is too large…what man will marry me?...It is difficult to smile.” Instead she reopens the door to her slave past and tries to help other trafficking victims—telling them that “they must make a new life” and inviting them to share their stories.
Many women are trafficked into richer Western European countries from the poorer Eastern countries, including Albania. The fall of communism in 1991 led to a rise in organized crime in Albania: in 2001 it was estimated 100,000 Albanian women and girls had been trafficked to Western European and other Balkan countries in the preceding ten years. More than 65 percent of Albanian sex-trafficking victims are minors at the time they are trafficked, and at least 50 percent of victims leave home under the false impression that they will be married or engaged to an Albanian or foreigner and live abroad. Another ten percent are kidnapped or forced into prostitution. The women and girls receive little or no pay for their work, and are commonly tortured if they do not comply.
An orphan who was tricked into leaving her village in northern Nigeria in 1998, Joy Ubi-Ubi fashions the turning-point from freedom to slavery as the moment when she drank blood during a voodoo ritual. Afterwards, once Joy was in Europe, her captors said this ritual meant the “juju” would kill her if she tried to escape. As Joy explains, she was thereby “forced to do the work” of a prostitute. She was enslaved for three years in the deprived Bijlmer district of Amsterdam—home to many West African immigrants. But the narrative also includes a parallel turning-point from slavery to freedom: the moment when Joy was asked to drink something again: a liquid that would make her bleed, and miscarry. This time, she refused to take the drink. Not wanting to abort her pregnancy, she made the decision to escape, then was helped by a West African Pentecostal minister who operates mission houses in Amsterdam. This use of native West African voodoo is a common feature of the slave experience for Nigerian women held in Western Europe (of whom there are around 10,000). The women and girls undergo an initiation ritual before leaving their country: for Joy this included the marking of her face and hands, and laying hands on a “juju” (statue), as well as drinking blood. They are often made to swear to the gods that they will work hard for their employers, and will never mention their real names, run away, or contact the police. Captors threaten the women with punishment by the gods for any disobedience, and warn that any attempt to escape will awaken a curse on their families. Once in Europe they are drugged, then resold. Held in brothels, they have sex with customers but are not paid: Joy notes that all money changed hands before the clients reached her room. Any pregnancies are aborted.