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Olive's story

There were points when Olive wanted to end her life, but was told that if she did her parents would be killed. Now in a safe house, Olive says she feels safe for the first time in a long time. She is accessing English classes and healthcare, and is being assisted with a claim for asylum.

Olive had heard of stories of women or children being kept as slaves and used for sex or manual labour, but never imagined that it would happen to her.

Olive, 39, was living in China with her husband when their six-month old son was kidnapped. Olive says this happens a lot in China - children are taken by gangs and either used for cheap labour or sold. On top of this, her husband’s business was failing and he started to drink. He became an alcoholic and started gambling, losing more and more money until he had to start borrowing from people. When these people started threatening them, Olive’s husband beat her and left, leaving her with huge debt and growing threats.

Olive was told she could pay back her husband’s debts through working in a restaurant and doing some child minding in the UK. She arrived at Heathrow Airport in 2016 on a tourist visa and was met by a man who took her to a house and, in ‘a dark room’, attempted to rape her.

The next day Olive was told she had to prostitute herself in order to pay off her debt. Olive had heard of stories of women or children being kept as slaves and used for sex or manual labour, but never imagined that it would happen to her. For the next two years she was taken to different flats and worked 7 days a week, never seeing the money she earned. She thinks she earnt half of the 1 million Chinese Yuan (about £117,600) her husband borrowed. There were points during her exploitation that she wanted to end her life, but was told that if she did her parents would be killed. 

A lifeline came for Olive in May 2018 when the flat she was working in was raided by police and she was taken into custody. At the time, Olive didn’t even know which part of the UK she was in. Police referred her to The Salvation Army and Olive was taken to a safe house. Within three weeks, Olive told her case worker she felt safe for the first time in a long while, although she was still finding it difficult to sleep and still had no appetite. 

Olive is now doing English classes and accessing healthcare. She is also being assisted with her claim for asylum.