modern slavery

Read Mercy's story

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Mercy* was working as an auxiliary nurse in Nigeria and struggling to provide for her three children when she was approached by a woman offering her the chance to work in the UK for a higher salary.

“I said I didn’t have any money for the flight,” said Mercy.

“But she said she was impressed by how well I was caring for her elderly mother, and that she would pay for everything. She said I could pay her back when I found work as a care assistant in the UK. I wanted to make more money so I could give my children a better life, so I said yes.

“When we got to London the story changed,” said Mercy. “The story changed entirely.”

Mercy, who had never been to the UK, didn’t know anyone, and who had no money of her own, was taken to a house where she was told to share a room with three other women, and given a small sofa to sleep on.

She was told she needed to pay back the money she owed quickly, and that if she did not do as she was told, she would receive no food.

The woman who had encouraged Mercy to leave her children, her country, her home, and her job betrayed her, and forced her into sex work.

“If any man came to the house in a taxi then I had to go with him,” she said.

“There were so many different men, and they all paid the money to her, never to me. I don’t believe they didn’t know I was being forced. They can’t say they didn’t know.

“I was so angry; this is not what I had been promised. I wanted to run away but there was nowhere to go. I had no money, no friends in the UK, I didn’t know the law. And she kept saying to me. No money, no food.”

As well as sex work, Mercy was made to wash dishes in a restaurant where her wages were collected by her trafficker. It was here that she met someone whom she trusted with her story, and who agreed to help her.

“He offered to take care of me, to take me away, so I had to trust him,” said Mercy.

Three years after arriving in London, and never being allowed to keep a penny she earned, Mercy found herself in Manchester scraping a living washing cars and doing other odd jobs.

“I wanted to go to the police. I wanted to ask someone for help,” she said. “But I was scared I would be deported and sent back to Nigeria.

“I had left everything behind. I had no money to show for the years I had been here, and the woman said that she would find me there if I ever ran away.”

Mercy eventually applied for asylum, and it was during her first Home Office interview that she told staff what had happened to her. They referred her into the modern slavery support system known as the NRM, and from there she was supported by Causeway.

“Causeway tried really hard to make my life better,” she said. “They have been very good to me. “They helped me financially, and when I was in distress, they were the there for me.

“I hope that I am granted asylum so that I can finally work properly as a care assistant, and do all the things that I wanted to do. England is my home now.

“Everything is gone in Nigeria for me. I left everything behind. I have not been able to get in touch with my children. I do not know where they are.

“I would love to be able to tell young people there not to trust people who offer you things abroad. It is nothing but trafficking. It will waste your time and ruin your life.”