Story from Isobel McFarlane, Media Officer, Salvation Army
Fredek is 30 years old. He enjoys going to the gym, riding his bike, running in the early mornings, and volunteering in the local community. He is a qualified Thai boxing instructor and is about to move into a new house. In 2012 he was held as a slave in the UK, today he is free.
“Things were bad in my life; I had made a few mistakes and was looking for a way out, to make a new start. There was no hope for me in my own country so when my ‘friend’ told me I could earn £2,000 a month working in a factory in the UK, I agreed because I thought I had nothing to lose. I was wrong.
I travelled by car with three other men and arrived in the UK after two days. As soon as we arrived at the house we would be staying in, one of the men took my passport and from this point on we were kept as prisoners in the house. On many occasions we were threatened physically and were close to being physically assaulted. At times I felt suicidal. I was afraid to escape as I had no identification and thought the police would deport me.
For five months I was forced to work for £3-5 a week in many different places such as a pizza parlor, a chicken factory, selling mobile phones and distributing flyers. I was also forced to steal petrol and scrap metal and made to open false bank accounts in my name.
After five months the men started to watch us less and we overheard them speaking about transferring us to another area to be forced to work for other people. So I started planning how to escape; we jumped out of a window and ran to the police who said that if we wanted, we could be taken to a safe place for our protection. We agreed.
The Salvation Army via City Hearts provided this safe environment and support. From the moment I arrived I felt they wanted me to succeed, they believed in me. Initially I was angry at the men who had done this to me and I wanted to see them punished. The Salvation Army service helped me connect with the police as a witness and receive advice on how to proceed. They never left my side through the whole process.
I had a number of fraudulent accounts in my name that the men had forced me to open, City Hearts and The Salvation Army helped to close them and to clean my record giving me a fresh start. My teeth were in a bad way and City Hearts helped me access dental care that, over a period of many months and a number of appointments, led to a full set of new teeth. I now feel more confident when I meet and talk to people.
They also helped me to access classes to learn English which gave me the courage to become more independent. I now attend appointments on my own and even help some of my new friends with the things The Salvation Army and City Hearts helped me with!
I was brought up a Catholic so always believed I was a Christian. But when I came to the UK I turned away from God because I believed He had turned away from me. City Hearts supported me to find a community that I felt I could be a part of and that would help me build a life in the UK.
My whole outlook on life has changed. I now look at people with love and I want to build a life that I can invite my family to be a part of again. What was impossible is now possible.