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2015 (Narrative date)

There are an estimated 11,700 people living in modern slavery in the United Kingdom. It remains a destination for men, women and children from countries across the world including Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, often seeking opportunities for a better livelihood. 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.

In 2005 Ope met a man offering to help her leave her life in Nigeria and find employment and a better life abroad. Promised work as a nanny or in a factory, Ope was taken by boat to Tenerife and then flown to mainland Spain where her trafficker was waiting for her at the airport. It was then that she found out she had been trafficked in to prostitution. After being physically and sexually abused in Spain, Ope was later trafficked again to the UK where the abuse continued. Ope was finally able to escape one day when she used money and ID from a wallet found at a market to get a bus to Kings Cross station in London.

My early memories of Nigeria, I had a nice childhood growing up. My parents are not very wealthy but at least they managed to send me to primary school. In 2005 I met this guy who takes people abroad to work. He said I would be working in a factory or as a nanny and I would be earning good money. They never tell you that you are coming to work as a prostitute.

We stayed in a boat for 4 days and 4 nights. The water kept splashing inside and we had to bail it out. It was really cold. We had little food and water, I was lucky to be alive. Then on the 5th day, we got to Tenerife island in Spain. Police and the ambulance came then they flew us to the mainland, to Madrid. My trafficker was waiting outside the airport. He took me to his flat. That’s when I found out the other girls are working on the streets as prostitutes. I’d never done such a thing in my life. I was worried and scared

I found out later there is a specific amount of money they make you bring home every day. If you go home empty handed, you get beaten up really badly. I left Nigeria to get a better life, and the situation I was in at the time, it was even worse than the life I was living in Nigeria. If I’d just stayed at home, none of this would’ve happened.

On the day I was raped, this man stopped next to me in a van. The direction he was driving to was l lonely and dark, so I told him to let me out. The next thing, he brings out a pistol. I’d never seen a pistol before. So, I didn’t argue with him, I just sat still. He beat me up and raped me.

And after that they decided to traffic me again, to England.

We landed in Stanstead airport and spent a day in London before they moved me to Coventry. It was a normal house, just a normal house in a normal street they said I would be working as a prostitute but not for long because it takes time to get a good job. I said it’s the same trick as those people in Spain used.

The first year it was just work, sleep, eat. Even if you are sick they don’t care, they still bring the men in. four, five a day. I could not leave. It was like I was a slave to them.

After a while they let me out to buy things, because they didn’t think I would run away. One day I went to the market, I saw this wallet on the floor. I was thinking maybe there is some money inside, at least I have some money. When I opened it there was this ID card. It was a Belgium ID card. That night I had a small suitcase and put some clothes in it. I went to their bedroom and took some money, one hundred or something. I wanted to leave, to get to France. So, I took a bus to the town centre to the national express. And they sold me a one-way ticket to London. I went to Kings Cross to board the train. Then the immigration officer, he looked at me and said, what other ID do I have? I said ‘I don’t have anything. I don’t have anything’.

I spent the night in a police cell, then they sent me direct to HMP Holloway. I was thinking I should’ve stayed back, I shouldn’t have run away. If there was a way I could go back to my traffickers, I would have gone back instead of me being in this place, in prison.

It was like a dream, you know? I never believed the judge would have set me free. Now I would like to go to Uni, and hopefully one day get married. It’s been a year since I ran away from them. My life is getting better than the way it used to be.

Courtesy of BBC News