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2013 (Narrative date)

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. Of those identified through the NRM, the majority were adults classified as victims of sexual exploitation followed by adults exploited in the domestic service sector and other types of labour exploitation. The largest proportion of victims was from Albania, followed by Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Slovakia. Mirela was trafficked into sexual exploitation after being forced into an arranged marriage. She was only able to escape her captors after a year by climbing through a window. Her story highlights the difficulty of some survivors in returning home, sometimes because of stigma attached to their sex work abroad, regardless of whether it was forced.

I had a normal upbringing in Albania - my mother a nurse, my father an army officer. When my parents died, I was 17, my brother younger. I was studying accountancy. My uncles were appointed guardians. I had to sign over our home to them. At 20, I was forced into an arranged marriage. It was a disaster. So I used to meet friends on the beach. One man, Edon, took an interest in me. He suggested we eloped to Italy. We did but I grew uneasy. Plans kept changing. I was given a false Italian ID card. I travelled alone through France to the UK. When I arrived, a couple met and took me to their house. Edon and other men were there. They ridiculed and humiliated me. I was then gang raped while all present looked on and laughed. Edon told me that I was now his slave. I was held captive for nearly a year. I had to service up to ten men a day. During the summer, one man spent the night with me. He got drunk. I escaped through an open window. I ran and ran. I was found and placed in a safe house. I have no idea if my captors were caught or what happened to Edon. I’m unsure as to my future. I can’t return to Albania.

As told to the Human Trafficking Foundation