Trafficking survivor helped by City Hearts Sheffield 'was abused and only fed once a day'
A man who was trafficked to the UK through an arranged marriage has spoken out about his experience of abuse and slavery, to help others.
The UK’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline has received more than 28,000 calls and nearly 8,000 contacts through its website and app, since it launched in October 2016.
Approximately 8,000 cases have been related to reports of modern slavery, affecting more than 24,000 potential victims - some of which have been helped by City Hearts, an anti-trafficking charity founded in Sheffield.
Mominul Hamid, known as MD, a survivor who has been helped “tremendously” by City Hearts, said: “Like anyone, I hoped for a decent family life.”
Bangladesh-born MD hoped to marry and start a life in the UK. However, once the couple had married and were expecting a baby, the family turned on MD, demanding money and land in exchange for his visa and access to his son.
He was hidden inside a lorry, in which he travelled from Belgium to England, by his father-in-law.
MD said: “He took my phone, documents, money, everything. But I got to meet my baby son for the first time.”
He was forced to work 14-hour shifts, unpaid, in his father-in-law’s restaurant.
MD told how there was “a lot of physical abuse”, he was “only given food once a day” and phone calls to family “had to be on my father-in-law’s phone in front of him”.
Several months later, MD managed to call a friend, who made him aware that he was being subject to modern day slavery, giving him the number of a helpline.
MD said: “The violence, the mental trauma, was literally unbearable. I called the helpline, who contacted the police.”
When the police arrived, the family denied MD was there, but he managed to attract their attention through a window. He was rescued and taken to a safe house run by City Hearts.
MD added: “People ask me why I didn’t just leave. But at the time I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I had to accept it as I didn’t have documents, and couldn’t work. And I didn’t want to leave my child.”
Despite battles with trying to get access to his son, against his former father-in-law, and with his ongoing asylum application process, MD is optimistic about the future.
Now living near Newcastle, he is studying law.
Phil Clayton, head of innovation at City Hearts, said: “Many people don’t escape slavery situations because they’re afraid they’ll be hurt or their families will be hurt. Some people owe their captors a debt or are spun a web of lies so they believe that what they are experiencing is normal or okay.”
City Hearts CEO Ed Newton added: “People are trafficked into sectors which rely on casual labour. You might see them every day, working in roles that make your life easier, and not realise their plight. They are visible, yet invisible.
"The food you eat could have been picked or cooked by slave labour. The clothes you wear could have been made or packed by trafficked people.”
Anti-Slavery Day, on October 18, was created by Parliament to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery.
Call 999 if you believe someone is in immediate danger.
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