There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery un 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.
Angela was living in Albania when she met a man who promised her a new life in Italy. However, instead of the new life she expected, Angela was taken to a house, raped and forced to work as a prostitute. After 5 years she was sold and trafficked to the UK. Angela was able to escape but lived on the streets in Brixton until she was helped by a woman who took her to a police station. Angela was able to get the help she needed at a safe house run by Hestia.
I went through a very tough time. I was a young victim of modern slavery and it was the people of Hestia who really helped me.
I come from a very poor family in Albania. I have two very young sisters, but our father abandoned us and our mother as he really wanted a son. Our mother blamed us for our father leaving. She met a new man but he didn’t like us and we were made to go out and work to survive. I farmed vegetables and sold them on the roadside – that’s how I met my boyfriend.
I was 17 and this man promised me a new life in Italy where he said he had family. He said he had a new job waiting and we’d get married and have a new life. I thought once we were settled I’d bring my sisters over to live with us.
Almost as soon as we left the country this man’s attitude towards me changed completely. I was taken to a house, raped repeatedly and forced to work as a prostitute.
I was kept against my will with other girls in the basement of a house where an older lady was in charge of preparing us for the brothels. After 5 years I was sold to 2 Romanian men who arranged to have me trafficked to the UK. I was transported to the UK in the back of a lorry and I decided to escape. I would rather die than face a new nightmare. I lived on the streets in Brixton until a lady helped me by taking me to a police station. The police immediately contacted the Salvation Army and I was brought to the safe house run by Hestia.
I was so scared and helpless, anxious that the safe house would turn out to be another brothel. But within a week I realised that I was finally safe and the staff could help me.
I was registered with a GP, given legal advice and eventually got in touch with counselling services where Albanian was spoken. For a long time I didn’t have the confidence to go out alone outside the safe house, not even to buy some food.
I missed my sisters. It turns out their new step-father had forced the elder sister to work in parties in Albania serving drinks to start off with and then sexually exploiting her. She had overheard a conversation that my youngest sister was soon going to be 15 and would be ready to do the same – so they fled. Amazingly they ended up in the UK – and through working with the police and my caseworker we were finally reunited.
My ordeal isn’t over as I have no leave to remain in the UK. The UK Border Agency say I have to go back to Albania now – but I’m appealing this decision. My life is still at serious risk.
But in the mean time I am safe and I want to thank Hestia for all the help they gave me.
Courtesy of Hestia