How do British citizens become victims of modern slavery?
When the world went into lockdown during the Covid 19 pandemic James was homeless but thankfully he was able to find temporary accommodation as part of the government’s ‘everyone in’ scheme.
Sadly, shortly after that he lost both his parents. While he was grieving their loss, he was befriended by a man called Tom, who lived nearby befriended him and helped him sort arrangements for his parents’ funeral.
It wasn’t long before Tom began staying at James’ flat and dealing drugs there, at first giving James some freebies until one day that stopped. Tom said James now owed him and needed to work for him to pay off the debt.
County Lines and Cuckooing
Tom moved two other people into James’ home and before he knew it, sex work and drug deals were taking place in his one-bedroom flat. By this point, James was addicted to the drugs that Tom had given him and barely in control of his surroundings.
James was often kept locked in his bedroom with a bucket for a toilet that was only emptied twice a week. When he was allowed out of his room, someone would follow James around the flat to make sure he didn’t run away and tell the police.
“It was even more frustrating because I could see the police station from my flat window,” James remembers, “I was so close but I couldn’t get to them. It felt like it went on forever.”
Eventually the police raided the flat and recognised James as a victim of cuckooing and took him to one of our safehouses.
“If the police hadn’t knocked on the door that day I’d have been dead from the drugs by now…” James says, “The other people here (at our safehouse) have helped me so much and the staff are brilliant. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the months but I’ve been able to lean on them and they’ve given me support…without this place I’d have been another statistic and I’m not going out like that.”
“I used to watch people being tricked on TV before it happened to me and think ‘How didn’t they notice? I’d have spotted that something was up’…. famous last words because they had me hook line and sinker.”
He is now looking to the future while his perpetrators, Tom and the others have all been convicted and wait to be sentenced. James is trying to put his experiences behind him and move on.
James may be free and safe now but there are thousands of other people, including British citizens, enslaved and exploited across the UK.
We provide specialist support for adult victims of modern slavery.
Stand in solidarity with victims of modern slavery on 18 October by taking part in our Anti-Slavery day campaign.
Learn more about how victims of modern slavery are identified and referred to get support.
Modern slavery in the UK and the support The Salvation Army provides to survivors