modern slavery, criminal exploitation

Eric's story

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For five years Eric* was part of a criminal underworld that almost ended his life.

Desperate for work, the 40-year-old British father accepted a warehouse job from a man who promised him a better life.

But when he got there, he was told to unpack boxes that turned out to be full of cocaine.

“The guy turned and said to me, ‘your fingerprints are on it now. You’re involved in it and there’s no way out of it’,” said Eric.

“And ever since that day he had me trapped. He said if I ever opened my mouth he’d have my legs broken, he’d have me shot, and it was absolutely scary.”

What followed was a period of exploitation and terror that almost drove him to suicide.

The man threatened and assaulted Eric on a regular basis, frequently making him work long shifts operating carparks or doing nightclub security. He was paid extremely low wages, or sometimes nothing at all.

“I was made to work from eight in the morning, and wouldn’t get home until two in the morning, and they’d give me £20,” said Eric.

“He used to say to me ‘you earn what you earn, if you don’t like it, tough. If you say anything, I’ll have your legs broken, or I’ll get you shot.’

“I had a horrible upbringing. I’ve had a horrible life, but this bloke came up to me and said he could help me get a better life. But it only took seconds to hook me into this criminal underworld. Anyone can get caught in this.”

Eric and his partner finally escaped the abuse after sharing details of the exploitation he was experiencing with social services. He was then referred into outreach support with Causeway.

“That’s when I met my caseworker Ste, my guardian angel,” said Eric.

“I owe him my life. He’s a phenomenal guy. He listened to me, and I’d never had that in my life. He understands, and he really cares. I’m much happier in my life, and it’s all to do with him.”

Ste helped Eric find a job through Bright Future Co-operative, a scheme originally created by Causeway to help modern slavery survivors back into work.

Now an independent cooperative, Bright Future Co-op works with organisations across the UK to find permanent, high quality employment for people who have experienced exploitation.

Currys is an enthusiastic Bright Future employer, and found Eric a place at one of their sites.

“When I started my job at Currys, instantly I thought ‘this is the place to be’,” said Eric.

“From going from a job where I felt like I was grafting nonstop but earning nothing, to this, where I was happy working, and earning money. It was overwhelming. It was just awesome to go to work!

“A few years ago I was close to taking my own life, but it’s like my life’s got meaning now. The opportunities are there, and I’m going to take them.

“A better life isn’t a dream anymore, it’s a reality.”

Bright Future Co-op’s mission is to see survivors of modern slavery living in freedom, and with dignity. If you are a business who could offer work, or an organisation supporting modern slavery survivors, and would like more information on how to get involved, please contact [email protected]