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.
Dinh was an orphan and homeless in Vietnam after his parents died in a mining accident. Living on the streets and shining shoes, one day one of Dinh’s customers said she could help him get work in the UK. However, upon arrival he was taken by two men and forced to cook and clean for his traffickers for 5 years. Subjected to physical violence and threats, Dinh was also forced to cultivate cannabis plants and was arrested by the police, spending 7 months in prison before he was found not guilty and taken to Hestia.
I was born in a small village in Vietnam. One day, there was an accident at the mine where my parents worked and they both died. My neighbours looked after me for a month but did not have enough money to support me and I ended up homeless. In order to survive, I polished shoes on the streets for over a year.
A regular customer asked me if I would like to go to school, which I did. She said that she could help me by taking me to England, where I could study and have my own room with food provided for me. As I was homeless and had nothing to lose, I agreed. She told me that someone would pick me up in a few days by the bridge, where I slept. The journey to the UK was very long and I travelled all the way inside a container.
When I arrived, I was handed over to two men who said they would look after me and take me to my new home. There were three Vietnamese men already in the house and one of them could speak a little English. He told me that we had all been trafficked and sold and that we should do what we are told otherwise we would be beaten up and killed.
The fourth time I tried to run away, I was found by the traffickers who put a rope over my arms and duct tape on my mouth. They beat me until I was unconscious. When I woke up, I had stitches on my head and blood on my clothes. I was then locked in the house and was never allowed to leave, even for a few minutes to get some fresh air. The traffickers were constantly watching me. They forced me to clean and cook for them for 5 years and then sold me to some other men who made me do the same.
Later on, I was told that I would start to water some plants in another house. It was here that I was arrested by the police for cannabis cultivation and spent over 7 months in prison. I was only 18 years old. When the authorities realised what had happened to me, I was found not guilty, moved to a detention centre and then transferred to one of Hestia’s safe houses for support. I was malnourished, weak, scared, and suffering from depression when I arrived.
Courtesy of Hestia