This Former Security Guard Was Tricked Into Slavery by a Newspaper Advert
In the UK alone, there are 136,000 people believed to be living in slavery.
Michael* was working as a security guard in Poland when he saw a newspaper advert — claiming it would help him travel to the UK to find better paid work.
The advert worked and in May 2013, Michael arrived in the UK.
Immediately, however, he found himself in a situation of labour exploitation, where he remained trapped until August of the same year.
During those four horrific months, he was forced to work in fruit and vegetable factories, as well as doing forced agricultural labour. He wasn’t allowed a bank account, he wasn’t paid any wages, he was severely assaulted on multiple occasions, and he was somehow still expected to pay rent.
Michael was one of the thousands of people trapped in modern slavery in Britain.
In the UK alone, it’s estimated that there were some 136,000 people living in slavery on any given day in 2016. In 2017, reports of human trafficking reached a record high — with more than 5,000 cases referred to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which identifies and supports victims.
Michael was lucky enough to escape and, after being assaulted in a particularly ferocious attack, he sought help from Yorkshire police. From there, he was transferred to Brighton to receive NRM support from Migrant Help, a charity that assists survivors of human trafficking.
He was supported by Migrant Help for a 45-day recovery and reflection period, which was then extended for a further two weeks.
But after this period Michael remained unable to work, because of his low level of English and the trauma he had experienced as a result of his trafficking.
It wasn’t until November 2017 that Michael returned to Migrant Help seeking support with employment, which is when he was referred to the Bright Future employment scheme — which aims to provide jobs for hundreds of survivors of modern slavery.
The Bright Future initiative was launched by the Co-op and the charity City Hearts in April last year, and offers slavery survivors 4-week paid work placements that can lead to a permanent job after a non-competitive job interview.
Michael started his work placement in March 2018, and he has now been working at a Co-op store for over six months.
“Bright Future has changed my life for the better,” he said. “I now have a steady income, am able to pay my bills independently, and pay off past debts.”
And Bright Future is growing too, with 15 British companies — including John Lewis, the Body Shop, and Dixons Carphone — signed up as of September 2018.
“We think of slavery as something from the history books but it is happening in the UK at this very moment,” said Pippa Wicks, deputy CEO of the Co-op.
Global Citizen has joined forces with the Co-op, to help ensure that modern slavery survivors in Britain get the support they need to take the next steps.
Despite the thousands of people living in slavery in Britain, our laws aren’t currently equipped to deal with the problem and, in England and Wales, victims are guaranteed just 45 days of support. While the government has promised to increase this, it’s not for long enough, and it leaves victims at risk of becoming homeless, or vulnerable to being re-trafficked.
A private member’s bill called the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill is hoping to change this and, if passed, it would require the government to provide a year of guaranteed support to victims — including a safe place to stay, access to medical treatment, mental health support, legal advice, training, and education.
*Names of those involved have been changed to protect their identity.