More than 200 years ago the British House of Commons passed historic legislation to make the slave trade illegal, but sadly, the reality today is that slavery still exists in towns, cities and the countryside across the world, including here in the UK.
The scale of this hidden crime is significant – Home Office research estimates that in 2013 the number of potential victims in the UK was between 10,000 and 13,000. This number not only represents those trafficked into the UK from abroad, but adults and children from Britain too.
Case study: Sarita from Nigeria
Sarita grew up in Nigeria with her parents and siblings and her family scraped a living by selling bean cakes by the side of the road.
Over the course of five years, Sarita and her mother were befriended by a man who would regularly buy their goods. Trusting the man, the family agreed to Sarita travelling with him to Europe to find work as a waitress or a nanny.
She was presented with a passport and travel documents with a different date of birth. The man explained this was simply to overcome the fact she was too young to work abroad.
He reassured Sarita’s mother, who was anxious about paying back the money for her travel, that Sarita’s wages would soon cover this.
Before leaving Nigeria, Sarita was taken to a ritualistic ‘juju’ ceremony in Nigeria to make her afraid of disobeying the man.
Along with four other women, Sarita travelled with her trafficker to Germany, where they were taken to a large house. The trafficker became instantly aggressive and told the women that they would have to work as prostitutes to pay back their travel costs.
Sarita was devastated. She was threatened with violence and humiliation to her family should she ever try to escape, and she was assaulted if she did not willingly comply with the prostitution.
Brought to the UK, her exploitation continued. On one occasion she was tricked into taking a drugged drink and regained consciousness to find two men raping her.
One day, seeing an opportunity to escape, the women panicked and ran into the street and became separated. Frightened and vulnerable, Sarita was helped to a police station where staff and solicitors referred her to The Salvation Army.
At a safe-house she received much needed counselling and legal support to grant her refugee status. Staff helped her find somewhere to live and gave her opportunities for training.
By the time Sarita left the safe-house staff has witnessed a remarkable transformation in her manner and attitude to life. She is now living independently and is studying, and recently went on an apprenticeship scheme for a major UK supermarket group.
Help us put an end to modern slavery by reporting via 101 today, or find more information here .