There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery in the United Kingdom (Global Slavery Index 2018). According to the 2017 annual figures provided by the National Crime Agency, 5, 145 potential victims of modern slavery were referred through the National Referral Mechanism in 2017, of whom 2,454 were female, 2688 were male and 3 were transgender, with 41% of all referrals being children at the time of exploitation. People are subjected to slavery in the UK in the form of domestic servitude, labour exploitation, organ harvesting and sexual exploitation, with the largest number of potential victims originating from Albania, China, Vietnam and Nigeria. This data however does not consider the unknown numbers of victims that are not reported.
Whilst being forced to engage in sex work in the UK, A. found that the police continually failed to offer her help or support. It was not until she contacted the Salvation Army that she received any tangible aid.
On one occasion the police found me naked and said, “Are you a prostitute? Get in the back of the van. Here’s a jacket and we’ll drop you back,”—back to the hands of the perpetrators. I was put in domestic violence refuges and then told that I did not fit the criteria because there was more than one perpetrator. I had given up thinking that there was any—I didn’t understand. I wasn’t fitting any criteria. As soon as I reached 18, it was no longer CSE or trafficking. There’s notes that clearly stated, “This person’s been trafficked,” but nothing was done. When I turned 18, I was told by the police that it was a lifestyle choice because I had access to a mobile phone.
It wasn’t until I’d called the Salvation Army, and after I’d explained and they got the referral and I was taken to the safehouse that they said, “Yes, this is tailored for this person.” My only complaint was that 45 days was not enough. It’s been [number] years and even now support is still needed for ongoing medical stuff.
Narrative provided by Hestia