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Mark Ovenden

2017 (Narrative date)

The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that on any given day in 2016, an estimated 3.6 million men, women and chidlren were living in modern slavery in Europe and Central Asia (GSI 2018). People are subjected to exploitation in forced labour, debt bondage and forced sexual exploitation. Government response in Europe is particularly strong with a number of regional bodies holding them account and monitoring responses, and while countries in Central Asia have taken steps to tack modern slavery, more needs to be done. 

Mark was unemployed and looking for work when he was offered a job and a place to stay. However, he soon found himself trafficked into forced labour. He worked long hours doing laborious work and was not paid. He was trafficked in the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.

I was unemployed. I had no income whatsoever and a guy pulled up next to me… in a quite expensive car. He said he was looking for someone to work, he’d give me a place to stay, he’d provide food for me and try to make me as comfortable as possible… And that he’d pay me £50 a day.”

And then my boss decided to go to the site that his family lives on and there, everything went very very quickly downhill. He stopped paying me anything at all. We were working up to 15 hours a day… And it’s very very physical work, very heavy work… So there were a lot of broken-looking people.

There was no rest. Pretty much every waking hour of, somehow, every day was spent working. I’d say there were about 20 other workers on the site who were working for other members of my boss’s family. They kind of were typically punished for the slightest little thing. They were beaten for not working fast enough. I’ve seen people attacked with work tools, with spades, with pickaxes… They had their heads shaved… 15 men lived in a horse box… It was very much like a concentration camp. A lot of them were extremely hopeless. There were guys that had been there for five years or more… They’d given up all hope. They couldn’t see any way to leave… They’d seen people try to run away in the past and always, every single time, a day later, two days later, they said they’d been dragged back…

At the time I am 24 years old, I have a decent education, I’m physically fit—how can this happen? It’s really really difficult for people to understand… And this could happen to anybody. It just requires somebody’s circumstances [to] change, that things get worse for them… That they’re able to kind of land in that situation—absolutely anybody. It could happen.


Narrative source Youth Underground, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking through youth education, awareness-raising and advocacy.

Original narrative can be found here: