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.
Henrick was living in Eastern Europe when he was offered a job working in a factory in the UK. Upon arrival, his passport was taken and his movement restricted and he was forced to work in various places under threats of physical violence. Henrick finally escaped when he overheard his employers talking about moving them to another location. Henrick was supported by City Hearts when he took his case to the police.
When I was 20 and living in Eastern Europe, someone I thought was my friend told me I could earn £2000 a month working in a factory in the UK. I accepted the job straight away.
There was no hope for me in my country. Things were bad in my life; I had made a few mistakes and was looking for a way out and a new start. So I thought I had nothing to lose. I was wrong.
After two days of driving, I arrived in the UK with three other men. As soon as we got to the house, one of the men took my passport. From then on, we were not allowed out. We were kept as prisoners and physically threatened.
For five months I was forced to work for no more than £5 a week in different places; a pizza parlour, chicken factory, selling mobile phones and distributing flyers.
I was forced to steal petrol and scrap metal and made to open false bank accounts in my name. I was afraid to escape as I thought that the police would deport me because I had no ID. It was awful. At times I felt suicidal.
Over time the men started to watch us less, and one night we overheard them speaking about transferring us to another area to work for other people. My heart sank. What was going to happen next? I couldn’t take it anymore and the others agreed. We had to get out.
We jumped out of a window and ran to the police who took us to a City Hearts Safe House. From the moment I arrived, I felt they cared and believed in me.
At first I was just so angry at the men who had done this to me and wanted to see them punished. The City Hearts staff stood by me as I relived my experience to the police. They never left my side through the whole process.
I felt so supported. I was assisted in closing the fraudulent accounts I had been forced to open, helped in clearing my record, and was aided in sorting out my teeth as they needed urgent attention. I also got a chance to go to English classes.
I feel so much more confident now when I meet and talk to new people. I can attend appointments on my own, and can even help my new friends with the things I have learnt at City Hearts.
My whole outlook has changed. I now look at people with love and I want to build a life that I can invite my family to be a part of again.
It felt like my life was impossible and that it could never change. But it has: completely
Narrative provided by City Hearts