T*, 28, had a good life in Nigeria. He had a master’s degree in medical science and good prospects, but after suffering problems in his personal life, he began looking for a way out of Nigeria. Little did he imagine it would lead into a life of forced labour and domestic servitude, a life worse than the one he was fleeing.
He met some people who said they could help him and brought him to the UK, promising work. However this didn’t materialise and was soon homeless.
T came across some Nigerian women working in a hair salon. They told him of people looking for workers in Scotland who could help him and paid for his coach to get there.
T was forced to work in the house, cleaning, washing, ironing and teaching his trafficker’s children. In the evenings he was forced to work in the clubs they owned - socialising with clients, cleaning the toilets and any other odd jobs required. His traffickers would beat him when he didn’t meet their targets.
T was made to sleep on the floor and all the money he earned went to his bosses. The small amount of cash they gave him had to be paid back to cover his ‘rent’.
They controlled everything he did, took away his phone and wouldn’t allow him to make friends. His trafficker would threaten him and tell him police wouldn’t help, particularly after his visa ran out.
T asked for help from the pastor at the local church, but it got back to his trafficker and he beat T until his lips and nose were dripping with blood. That was when he decided to walk away and was homeless again until another Nigerian man he had met in the clubs said he would find him work in the north. However this man was connected to his trafficker and T said arriving at the new job was like moving from the frying pan to the fire.
T then went to the authorities who referred him to The Salvation Army. He was moved to a safe house and continued to receive outreach support from City Hearts once he moved to independent accommodation.
“When I was in the middle of being exploited it seemed like it couldn’t be worse than being homeless and without food or shelter,” T said. “But now looking back I am shocked at the thought that I was a slave to these people. When I think about the future I feel quietly confident that slowly but surely I will get there. I am receiving support from City Hearts and The Salvation Army.”