The financial crisis cost me my job. I slept rough. Two men approached me. They offered me work near London. I shared an old dirty shed with a tin roof with another man.
Every day we were picked up by a van at 7am and then knocked on people’s doors asking if they wanted any work doing, digging patios or making drive-ways. We were picked-up at 9pm: if we didn’t get back in time, we’d get beaten. Everyone was afraid. Some got beaten up often, punched in the head or kicked. We worked 6 days a week unpaid. Someone tried to escape, but was beaten with a spanner.
One Sunday the police raided. I had never heard of trafficking before. When I looked around, I saw how ill everyone looked, skinny and unwell, as if we had all been in a concentration camp. For the first time in my life I am now being cared for, thanks to the Salvation Army. I am still nervous of going out alone.
I am a Hungarian and was experiencing hard times. My wife had left me and I lost custody of my children. I had to get work to get my family back.
I was offered a job in the UK by a man who travelled with me and three other men by car. We arrived in North East England. I was kept prisoner in rented property by this man. All our personal documents were taken, and we were closely watched. We weren’t allowed out unaccompanied. Several times we were physically assaulted. I felt suicidal.
I was taken to work in a pizzeria as a kitchen porter and later at a chicken factory. I received no payment for any of this work. The traffickers took my money. I was given just enough food not to starve. This carried on for at least 6 months.
I tried to escape, but it wasn’t easy, as I was watched all the time. Later I changed my tactics – I got the traffickers to trust me more. I was then told I must work on a building site. There was an opportunity to escape. I did. I went to the police, although I was afraid I’d be sent home. They helped me. I was then placed in the City Hearts* shelter in Liverpool. Now I am improving my English and looking forward to a better life than ever before.