April 23, 2024

Pathfinder News

redefining news

Nigerian Woman Speaks Of Slavery, Rape In UK

Charlotte Rose & Dolly Carter – BBC Investigations, East of England

Sitting in the living room of a Salvation Army safe house in Cambridgeshire, Rose looks like a regular 20-something. Her clothes and friendly smile tell little of the four-year ordeal that brought her from Nigeria to this refuge. She says her dreams of a new life in Britain became a nightmare of punishing work, physical assault and rape. She is nervous to tell her story, but wants people to understand the reality of modern slavery in the UK – a crime hiding in plain sight.

Rose left Nigeria full of optimism for all that Britain has to offer.

The first of five children, her father had been a trader until he lost his shop, which meant the family could not pay for her to continue her education.

So when a family friend from church told her of an opportunity to become a nanny for a wealthy UK couple, who would sponsor her studies, she jumped at the chance.

She travelled to the UK on a six-month tourist visa.

When she first met the couple, she says they seemed “nice” and gave her a room in their four-bed apartment, but she soon found the work was not as advertised.

Rose says she was stuck indoors doing cooking and cleaning every day

Rose, not her real name, says she was taken to a restaurant owned by the couple, where she would cook and clean from 17:00 to 05:00.

She worked six days a week, and on her only day off did more chores at home.

“I felt so exhausted… so empty. This was not what they promised me,” she says.

Rose says the gruelling work pattern continued for a year, with no wages and no sign of her starting her studies.

“That’s when it dawned on me – ‘Oh, these people actually bring me here to work for them as a slave.'”

At the time she could not call her family because of the home’s CCTV, so called when she took their little girl to the park.

Even then, she did not want to tell the truth.

“When I call [my mother] and she asked me, ‘How are you doing?’ – I would lie to her. ‘I’m fine, I’m OK, they are planning to send me to school.'”

She says the couple would shout at her, calling her “stupid” and “useless”, which made her “very scared”.

On one occasion, she says the wife slapped her for a perceived act of disobedience.

‘My life was hell’

The Covid-19 pandemic made matters worse.

All the other staff left the restaurant, leaving her alone cooking and cleaning all night.

The wife also returned to Nigeria, which meant Rose had sole care of her daughter.

Describing her routine, in which she would get only a few hours of sleep each day, Rose breaks down in tears.

Volunteers at a Salvation Army shop make welfare packs for survivors of modern slavery

She says the situation left her trapped and exposed to a new form of exploitation.

“The man abused me in so many ways. Sexually, emotionally, physically.

“He raped me countless times because I can’t talk to anybody.

“My life was hell.”