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2012 (Narrative date)

In France, women and children are being subjected to domestic servitude, in cases in which families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households. Trafficking networks have expanded to operate in large towns outside of Paris, including Lille, Marseille, Chartres, Toulouse, and Nice.

"Agnès" arrived as an orphan to study in France but instead of education she was forced to work long hours without pay or contract. She eventually escaped with the help of neighbours.

I arrived in France through a lady my brother said would help me. I had lost my parents. My brother was still young and going to school so he couldn’t take care of me. The lady’s daughter came for a holiday and the lady introduced us. She said, “This is my daughter. She will take you with her. You’ll mind her children and she’ll send you to school.” I had just turned 18.

All the time I was with her, I minded her children, but she never made good on her promise. I took care of the children, washed them. I cooked, I cleaned, everything. I never went out because I wasn’t allowed. I couldn’t talk to people, even the neighbours. She didn’t pay me.

One day, she said to me, “Get your things together, we’re going back to Abidjan.”

I didn’t want to go because she hadn’t helped me. Sending me back to Abidjan there was no one there for me.

For three years I worked, kept her children and for three years, she did nothing.

It’s really painful. Now, I feel even though it’s hard, but I prefer this. I prefer this than to stay in such a situation.

As told to the European Commission