Modern slavery: a victim’s experience

I’d been through a tough time in Latvia and was looking for a fresh start. I’d heard how people had moved to the UK and found work with good wages. It felt like the right thing to do to get out of my situation.

I saw an advert online saying that there was plenty of work in Cambridgeshire. I called the number and spoke to a man who said that he could guarantee work and that accommodation would also be included as part of the job.

I didn’t have the money to pay for the travel, but he said I could pay him back when I got my wages. It sounded perfect and I agreed to go.

When I arrived in the UK I was taken to my accommodation. It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t want to complain. I thought I could find something else after a few months of working. There were twelve of us living in a two bedroom house, sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

The man who brought me to the UK said he needed my passport to complete some paperwork before I could start work, so I gave it to him.

It took about a week before I started work, initially in the fields and then later in a factory. The hours were long and my wages were paid to the man who organised everything. He only gave me about £15 a week after he had taken off money for rent, my debt for travel to the UK and transport to work.

Sometimes there wasn’t any work for a while, but I still had to pay rent. I couldn’t afford to and so it was added to my debt.

I confronted him about returning my passport and the low wages, but he assaulted me and said I was ungrateful. I felt trapped and just had to take it. I had to spend all the money I got on food just to survive. Even if I did somehow manage to save enough money to go home, I didn’t have my passport to make the journey.

I was becoming increasingly desperate and didn’t know where to turn.

Then one day police officers came to the house and said that they were investigating the man who had brought me to the UK. I told them what had happened to me and they arranged for me to go to a place of safety.

I thought my situation in Latvia was bad, but this had been much worse. I wish I’d never taken the job, but finally I had managed to escape.

If you’re concerned for someone’s welfare please call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Alternatively you can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

For more information on the signs to look out for visit http://bit.ly/2qb3RAn.

*This blog has been based on common experiences of victims of modern slavery in Cambridgeshire. It is not the specific account of one individual.

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