Story from Isobel McFarlane, Media Officer, Salvation Army
András was living in Hungary but finding it difficult to earn a decent living, particularly after the breakdown of his marriage. He was introduced to a gentleman who promised him employment in the UK where he could earn up to £2,000 a month. András felt that even if he could earn less than half of this it would be a much better opportunity than any work he could currently find in Hungary so he and his friend accepted the offer and travelled to the UK.
They arrived in the UK in September 2011 and at first things looked great. He and his friend were treated very kindly for the first three days after arrival – they were well fed and had their freedom while they waited for their work to start. Then everything changed. They began to find they were locked in their accommodation and no longer allowed to go anywhere without the supervision of the gang of men running the operation. They were taken to the bank and forced to open fraudulent accounts, which were then used to purchase telephones and phone contracts. They were taken to work on building sites and began to receive some pay but this was nothing near the rate they had been promised. If they were lucky they received about £5 a week – often it was as little as £5 a month and they had to use this to buy basic toiletries such as toilet roll and soap.
Their documents were taken away so they felt they couldn’t escape. They were barely fed – just one meal a day and this consisted mostly of some bread and margarine.
András and his friend witnessed other people who were also being kept in these conditions, being beaten. Everyone was verbally abused. There was an atmosphere of fear and aggression created by the fifteen or so men in the gang who were holding them captive. András made sure that his captors knew that he had studied Thai boxing for many years which he believes may have helped keep him safe but as he and his friend were often outnumbered 15 to 2. There was such an atmosphere of violence, they were in constant fear.
After a few months András decided that their best chance was to try to win the trust of their traffickers. They succeeded and eventually were able to get their documents back. This gave them the confidence to break out and they ran to the nearest police station. Here they were met by ‘two kind ladies from The Salvation Army’ who took them to City Hearts.
András was instantly impressed and quite shocked to see that there were good people in England who were willing to help people like him and his friend. “I was so impressed and surprised to find such good people in England as our only experience so far was really bad.” City Hearts gave them food, clothing, arranged an allowance and most importantly at that stage, gave them somewhere safe to stay. They were initially very frightened to be on their own and so staff from City Hearts stayed with them at all times.
András has given his statement to the police but does not believe that they have been successful in arresting his trafficker. “I hope that if they catch him, he will learn his lesson, as it not right to do to one human being what he did to us.” András is taking English classes as he dreams of staying in the UK to help work with other victims of trafficking, particularly people from his own country. He would like to work somewhere like City Hearts or with The Salvation Army. City Hearts helped him to find a suitable flat to live in and he has recently secured employment in a restaurant following continued outreach support from City Hearts. He is delighted to be able to be self-sufficient and independent once more.