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Awais Raza

2020 (Narrative date)

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. 

Awais Raza was taken to a children’s home after his mother and father were killed. He describes this home as more like a prison. An older Afghan man helped him escape the abusive and exploitative children’s home and brought him to the UK. Upon arrival he was housed by an Afghan man in Luton and was given a passport. After two years of helping with cooking and cleaning in people’s homes, he sought out an education. At age 20 he was invited to a Home Office interview where he was forced to recount experience he had buried. After hours of questions, he was detained for 13 days before his solicitor could refer him to the National Referral Mechanism. Overall it took five years for Awais to be granted asylum in the UK. 

My mum passed away a long time ago, and my sister passed away a long time ago. I don’t quite remember what happened, I don’t know.   

Clean the house, take this rubbish, and they were beating me as well, forcing me to do work.  

I have scars here and some on my feet. It’s like burning. They beat me like this, and I fall down. So I had to have stitches.  

I was living in Luton, but at that time I had nothing. But the man who brought me here, he had told me I could stay here for some time, at that time I wasn’t even thinking about what happened in my past.   

When I claimed asylum I went to London Lunar House, I go there in the morning for an interview. They gave me an ID and then after they took me to Heathrow’s detention centre. I was scared too much, I didn’t know where they were taking me in the small van.  

In the night-time, there was too much terror. So, sometimes I slept in the morning, five or six hours. But at night-time it was a big problem.   

I told them everything about there, and they put me in the detention centre.  

You don’t know what it’s like, what your life will be. You stay the whole day home, just waking up in the morning, same days, same things.   

In 2019, the Home Office sent me a letter for an interview. There were many times I said something wrong.  

I waited a long time. I think five years. Now I think, it was better than my past, it wasn’t that good, but it’s better than before. So, every day brings something new, so I’m thinking for new things. So I’m hopeful for the future. 


Narrative as reported in The Independent. All credit given.