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‘I was trafficked to Luton as a child and exploited by my own relatives' - Hedi Mehrez

‘I was trafficked to Luton as a child and exploited by my own relatives’ – Hedi Mehrez

It’s hard for many of us to imagine the trauma of being trafficked and exploited, let alone by your own family members. However one man experienced just this after he was brought to Luton and kept in a house and made to work.

Sadly, victims of trafficking will soon be expected to talk about their experience of exploitation within a certain timeframe, and if they don’t, their credibility will be in question due to the Nationality and Borders Bill. In its current form the bill has been criticised and could act as a barrier against justice.

With the help of Migrant Help, Ibrahim has shared his heartbreaking story with BedfordshireLive to show how the bill will affect refugees. Here is his story:

READ MORE: Radio 1 DJ ‘started smiling straight away’ upon return to old university campus for live broadcast

‘I was told to act normal and happy in front of any guests and not speak too much’

I was brought into the UK at the age of 10 (from Pakistan) by somebody whose details I don’t remember. I didn’t know English and I was not told the name of the city where I was – I found out later on that I was brought to Luton.



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When I arrived in the UK, I was taken to my uncle’s house. My uncle was housebound as he was paralysed and I assumed the role of the carer, toilet cleaning, bathing, and looking after him daily with whatever odd jobs he wanted him to do.

I slept on the floor in the same room as my uncle. I was expected to be on call 24 hours of the day, all day every day because his bath was located in the garden and he required assistance all the time as the house was not disabled friendly.

I was deprived of a good education and a good job, and I was kept in the house for the purpose of caring for his uncle. In the evening I was sent to the mosque to attend Arabic classes but I was told not to mention anything to anyone about my lifestyle in the household.

Being young, naïve, and illiterate, I was not aware of my rights or what support was available. I was told to act normal and happy in front of any guests and not speak too much.

Due to limited awareness, the stammer problems which caused issues with my speech, I was not confident to disclose to anyone what I had been going through. I also felt I couldn’t trust anyone apart from my uncle, as my whole life was revolving around him and I was completely relying on him

‘I was never paid for any work’

When I was 14 years-old, he sent me to do odd jobs to earn money such as house clearances, gardening, painting, decorating and other manual work. He would pick me up in the morning and drop off at the end of the day. I was never paid for any work, the payments went directly to my uncle.

I was told that I had to do this work to pay for my stay in the house including my meals. As I had no money or qualifications to support myself, I thought that staying and doing the work was better than trying to run away and have no shelter.

After a while, I felt obligated to stay with my uncle as he would tell me how much it would hurt him if I was not around to take care of him, especially with his physical disabilities, so I felt I owed it to him. Every now and again, he would show me affection which made me feel less alone and scared, so I started to really care for him, and saw him as my protector.

I also did not want to appear ungrateful and even to this day, I struggle to say anything bad about my uncle. He died in 2011, and although I was free from all these restrictions, my English was good and I had learnt how to manage my stammer, I still found myself moving from place to place as I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.

‘No education, no documents’

I had no passport or ID documents, so I couldn’t work to support myself and relied on friends and doing odd jobs for about a year and a half. In August I was stopped by the police where I opened up about my situation. I was sent to different organisations, but my lack of awareness meant I could not pursue my matter properly and subsequently moved in with some friends who helped and supported me.

I tried to get documentation such as a passport, however the Pakistani embassy required my father’s ID card number which I could not obtain. I did not recognise myself as a victim of modern slavery, I was not happy with my situation, but I felt I did not have the tools to move on independently.

I had no education, no documents, neither the possibility to access a job or sustain myself. I spent part of my childhood and teen ages taking care of my uncle.

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