Dai's Story

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Dai* grew up in an orphanage in Vietnam. At just ten years old he travelled to the nearest big city to make his own way in the world. For years he did odd jobs such as selling bread, helping in restaurants, and sleeping wherever he could.

At 14, Dai was approached by some older men who suggested he go with them to China, where they told him he could earn good money working in restaurants.

His new friends promised him everything would be fine if he just did what they told him and that the cost of his journey would be taken from the money he earned. They provided him with a fake passport and took him to the airport, but instead of travelling to China, Dai found himself on a flight to Angola.

Once in Africa, his ‘friends’ changed. They took Dai to an enclosed compound where he was put to work in an ice factory. When he asked for wages they beat him.

“The people there were scary,” said Dai. “They were always watching me. I didn’t know the language, I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t escape- but even if I could- I wouldn’t have known what to do.”

Dai believes he was held in Angola for around a year before he was put in the back of a truck and driven four thousand miles to Portugal.

“I was taken to another enclosed factory area. As soon as the lorries drove in, the doors quickly shut behind. There was no way out. I was told to load frozen Chinese food onto trucks. There were other young people there, but none of us spoke the same language. They would beat us if we didn’t work. We weren’t allowed outside. We all slept together on the floor.”

Dai was kept working inside the warehouse, not seeing daylight, for more than two years.

Then, when he believes he was around 17-years-old, Dai was taken from the factory and driven for ten hours to a port.

“I didn’t know where I was being taken to,” he said. “Once it was dark they took me from the truck and put me in the back of a dirty, smelly vehicle. I think it was a horsebox. I couldn’t communicate with anyone.”

Dai was taken to the UK where he was driven to the middle of a forest before being let out and put under the control of two men. They took him to a house and ordered him to cook for them whilst they taught him how to care for cannabis plants. He was then driven to Liverpool and locked in a house to look after a cannabis factory. He was threatened with violence if he did not comply.

Dai was scared, hungry, and confused. He did not speak English and had a bad allergic reaction to the cannabis, which gave him breathing difficulties and made his eyes, nose and throat sore.

In desperation he broke a window and ran away. He managed to run for ten minutes before his captors found him. They dragged him back and beat him- making sure to fix the window so he couldn’t escape again.

After a number of months alone in the house, Dai saw another chance at escape. The cannabis crop had been harvested and the house was no longer being watched by the gang as closely. Dai smashed the glass of an upstairs window and clambered down to the street below.

Dressed just in flip-flops and some tattered clothes, Dai ran for his life.

“I was terrified they would find me,” he said. “I was so scared that I just ran. I ran for a really long time.”

A police officer found Dai running down the street, disorientated and exhausted. He gave him food and drink and took him to a hotel while he arranged a place for him in a Causeway safe house.

Dai was 18 when he was finally able to feel safe and free for the first time in his life.

Despite working hard for four years, Dai was never paid a single penny. He is now living in a Causeway safe house specifically for Vietnamese men, and has a place in college in September to learn English.

“My childhood was extremely difficult,” he said. “All I’d ever known was the orphanage, work, and being beaten. Causeway have been good to me. I finally have my own room, and can come and go as I please.

 “I would like to stay in England,” he added. “Life is better here than it was in Vietnam. There I was helpless, homeless, but nobody helped me. At Causeway, the people are very kind, and are always ready to support me.”

Dai has applied for asylum in the UK, and says if he is allowed to stay he would like to study, and work as a chef so he can have a good future.

 “I just want to work so I can support myself,” he said. “But after all I’ve been through, I don’t dare feel any optimism about the future yet. I still have so many uncertainties in front of me.”