a survivor of modern slavery
Sanu tells how he was tricked into living and working in slave-like conditions in the UK. Seven days a week, for seven years Sanu was forced to work in his trafficker’s shop, beaten, threatened and given no wages so he had to beg for money and food.
He is now living in a Salvation Army safehouse where the support he’s receiving is helping him to overcome his ordeal. Sanu bravely told his story to Nihal Arthanayake on BBC Radio 5 Live because he wanted to warn other people of the dangers of slavery.
This is Sanu’s story in his own words.
“I came to the UK to study. That was my goal. I was frightened to return to Bangladesh because I had some difficulties in Bangladesh and I didn’t feel safe.
I had a job in a cash and carry to help me while I studied. One customer was very friendly to me. At first I thought he was a good person, he was kind and polite.
He said: 'You come to me and I will find you somewhere to live and you can work for me. I’ll look after you.' So I followed him.
He said he’d treat me like his younger brother. But where he took me to was not very good at all but by then I had no other choices. There was no heating, roof leaking, no hot water, messy walls. At that point I still had my passport, my NI card, my bank card. One day I asked him for a better lock on my door and he said I’ll look after your valuables for you. Give them to me. I am your brother. So I trusted him. But I never saw them again.
Deception and Trickery
After that he changed. He didn’t keep any promises. Then he started swearing at me. Not treating me like a little brother. He was not nice anymore. He was a big man and he hit me a lot of the time. I was scared of him and scared of my situation, but I didn’t know anyone who would help me. He made me work in his shop but he didn’t allow me to talk to customers or other staff. There were CCTV cameras in the shop which he watched on his laptop so he could keep an eye on me.
I had no fixed hours. I worked at least 50 to 60 hours a week and sometimes 90 to 100. I would start at 8 o'clock and have to carry on until he said I could leave. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere; no mobile phone. I couldn’t go to the GP. He said if you talk to anyone then the police will come and get you. In Bangladesh we don’t have a good idea of the police so I believed him when he told me this was the same in the UK.
I worked seven days a week for seven years, even Christmas Day. I had to beg him for any money, even £20 for food and he always said Why do you want money I was scared I didn’t like to ask. He even made me buy my own food from his shop. Because he was so scary I just did what he said. I didn’t know what choices I had, so I kept going on.
Then I discovered my mother very sick. She had bad blood pressure. My dad has already died from cancer. So I was very alone.
One day a customer saw that I was in trouble. He was a good customer. It was Christmas and he got me a present – a Christmas jumper but inside it he hid a mobile phone. He said he’d got it for his wife but she didn’t like it. He knew that my boss was a bad person and wouldn’t let me accept it. That was why he wrapped it in the jumper.
One Sunday I was so broken physically that I asked for a couple of hours off. I needed something as I was mentally and physically exhausted. He straightaway shouted and said 'No, Who do you think will do your work?'. When I left that night he followed me home and grabbed my collar and punched me twice. I was totally shocked. But what can I do? Where can I go? I ran to the neighbours and his in the garage and dialled 999 on my phone. The police lady said “This is slavery” I didn’t know there was a law in the UK which covered what was happening to me. The police came, got me and arrested him.
Am I safe now?
I felt better but I still didn’t know what would happen to me. After a long time I was brave enough to speak to the police and they were kind and gave me water and somewhere safe to stay and then arrange for me to come here to a Salvation Army safe house.
The first time I did they listened to me and were kind. They treated me like a human being. My trafficker knew I had nowhere to stay and no other friends. He knew how to control me. He controlled me like in a video game with a remote controller. Every minute every second he took from me. Even now I can still be scared. What happened to me is all wrong. I still have trauma and nightmares and I am having some mental health service treatment. I try to sleep but I still see his face, it is like he’s still chasing me.
I just want to be normal person. I have no big ambitions, but I would not like anyone else to have to face what I faced. I now want to help other people to protect other people. I have no one in my country and the human rights there are bad. People don’t know they are going through modern slavery I was not locked up but my situation was like I was locked up and worse.
Where I am now with The Salvation Army, they see how I am and they really work hard to help me get my personality back. They helped me to go to the mosque and here I speak to my own people to help them understand. I felt lighter than I did before. I am now sharing with other people in the safe house and every step of my life is helpful in every way.
I have gone through a bad story but I hope if I tell my story it might help someone like me who could be sitting right next to you. You might think he’s OK but he might not be. I hope people will learn and listen and stop others going through what I went through.”
We provide specialist support for adult victims of modern slavery.
Modern slavery in the UK and the support The Salvation Army provides to survivors
We will keeping fighting for victims of modern slavery
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