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What is it like to be a Modern Day Slave?

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Gabi came to the UK in 2012 to work on a strawberry farm. He stayed in the UK in the hopes of finding additional work and not going back home empty handed. This is his story of being subjected to forced labour, in effect modern day slavery.

 

     “A friend said he could help me to find work. He made arrangements and I was picked up the next day at 6am. After a 12 hour shift the boss gave me £15 and told me to take it or leave it. I needed the money. I could not get benefits, I had no money for food and I was in rent arrears.

     This carried on for a couple of months with me feeling like I had no choice. Sometimes I got paid less if the boss felt like he had not made enough profit. It came to the point where I could no longer afford to live where I was living so the boss said he would take me in.  We took my belongings and he drove me to the depot where I worked and he told me I could sleep on the back seat of one of the cars there.

     Eventually this was upgraded to me sleeping in a lorry but after 2 months he asked me to pay him £30 rent per week. I was working long hours for very little pay. I had no toilet, no shower and no hot water. My water came from an old garden hose and I had to drink from this as well as use it to shower. This was ok in the summer but in the winter it was sometimes frozen so I had to go without.

     I threatened to leave unless I was put on the books but it just turned into an argument. I had nowhere to go so what was I to do? I never went to the doctor or the dentist. I never went out. In fact sometimes he would lock me in for three days without food.

     One day I escaped. I just made a run for it not knowing where I was going. I had heard about the Good Shepherd Ministries at Darlington Street Methodist Church. I thought if I went down there the brothers might help me to get somewhere to sleep and something to eat. I also wondered whether maybe someone could help me to stop this man from ever doing this again to anyone else.

     They gave me hot food and food to take away.  Brother Stephen and Paul Burns listened to my story. They promised they would do everything they could to help and sent me over to the Wolverhampton Church Shelter on Broad Street. I stayed there for one week until it closed. Through the shelter I got to meet Kate who works for HiABC and she convinced Matt to take chance on me even though I had no work and no money to pay the rent.

     I have now cleared all of my debts. I am working full time at a factory in Bilston and still helping out at the Good Shepherd from time to time. Looking back I feel I was a bit stupid but at the time I felt trapped and like I had no choice or way out.  I wonder how many others are in this position and need to hear that help is out there and that there is hope”.

Modern Slavery comes in many different forms: Forced Labour, Sexual Exploitation, Child abuse, Domestic Servitude, and Criminal Activities

Hope into Action - A true story of Human Trafficking

     Modern Slavery is an increasing issue across the Black Country and wider West Midlands. Many of us hoped we had seen the end of this evil trade with the pioneering work of Christian abolitionists such as William Wilberforce in the 1800’s. Sadly it is now a fast growing crime, with total annual slavery profits estimated to be as high as $150bn.

     Recently, the National Crime Agency stated that Modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK is "far more prevalent than previously thought", estimating that it is now affecting "every large town and city in the country".  

     So who is affected by this malicious crime? The Modern Slavery Helpline explain that there is no typical slavery victim. They can be men, women and children of all ages and from different backgrounds. It is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups and sadly this often includes the homeless people that Hope into Action Black Country helps and supports.  

     Wolverhampton has pioneered Wolverhampton Anti-Slavery Partnership (WASP), which aims to identify and support victims of modern slavery in a multi-agency, collaborative way. It also identifies and seeks to bring offenders to justice. The partnership is chaired by West Midlands Police and includes practitioners from the third sector, church, faith groups, law enforcement and statutory partners. This model has been so successful, that Wolverhampton’s work is now being replicated across the other West Midlands Police force areas.   

     It is through these partnerships and the help of communities, charities and churches that we can identify more victims and see lives changed.

James Henderson,

Transforming Communities Together