SURVIVOR: Crystal’s Testimony

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My name’s Crystal and I was trafficked from the Caribbean to work in domestic servitude.

I was trying to escape from a violent marriage but ended up working 18 hours a day, seven days a week for a middle-class Nigerian family. I knew no one in this country; therefore I relied totally on my traffickers. I was not allowed to speak to the neighbours/anyone. When I was trafficked to London the ages of my four children were (13, 10, 7 and 4).

Even today what baffles me the most is that my traffickers held very high positions in the church where they fellowshipped. I had a friend (or so I thought) whom I had confided in whilst I was back home in the Caribbean. This lady had travelled to the UK before, unbeknown to me, this lady also worked as a recruiter for the traffickers. After I had confided in her that I wanted to leave to my abusive husband, she then explained to me that unless I left the Caribbean it will be useless, especially since our island was a very tiny place. Because I had tried running away from my abusive husband in the past and it only resulted in him finding me, beating me and taking me back home like a piece of property, I trusted this lady.

Prior to travelling to the UK, I had never travelled outside of my country, far less heard about anything about human trafficking. Therefore I had no reason to doubt her. When she stated that she would assist me to make all of the necessary arrangement, I didn’t expect her to put me in the situation from which I ended up in.

The Lady told me about a Christian family she’d been in contact with in the UK, she then introduced me to the wife over the phone. The wife would then call me on a regular basis and eventually I started opening up to her more and more. She then explained to me that she herself experienced domestic violence from a previous relationship, she knew what I was going through. Once again, I was told that the only way to escape this vicious cycle was to leave my country and travel to the UK. I was assured that they (the Christian family) will also help get my kids over, once I had settled in. I looked at this as a lifeline. Oh my God, is this really happening to me? Is this the end of life of pain? I felt as though a saviour had come to my rescue. I called her my guardian angel. I was very naïve. The thing with traffickers is they are predators; they definitely sort out their preys.

Current Situation

After a long seven year ordeal to have my case settled with Home Office, I am happy to state that my two youngest children, who are now 19 and 16 respectively, migrated to the UK last year and they have settled in exceedingly well. My first born is currently here on a six week vocation. (I haven’t seen her in over a decade!!) and life is going great.

Also, I have been able to successfully gain and sustain full-time employment as an administrator/employment advisor for a welfare/back to work charity in South East London.

Although my dream job would be to work with victims/saviours of Human Trafficking some time in the future.

(1) Because the traffickers are well organised, they normally moved us around quite a bit. The traffickers moved me around a few times. Initially I was moved to St Albans, then to Reading and lastly to Dartford.

(2) I spent a period of 4 years living as a domestic servitude for three different families

(3) I was arrested at the last family home, in Dartford. The lone female immigration officer asked me how did I come to be living at that address and after I told her my story she then advised me to once I got to the station, after being booked in I should ask to speak to a First Response Human Trafficking Officer. I was very grateful for this advice because it was only after that initial meeting then I actually started to understand the why the immigration officer advised me on that.

(4) Firstly, after securing my bail, the police then handed me in the care of Migrant Helpline. A few other organisations then came to my aid, such as: Medaille Trust, Refugee and Migrant Justice, The Poppy Project, The Helen Bamber Foundation, Women and Girls Network, The Human Trafficking Foundation, HERA (Women Entrepreneurs Against Trafficking), Refugee Council (to name a few).

(5) Some of the main challenges after I had escaped my traffickers, were as follows:

Being believed by Home Office. Even though they acknowledged that I was a credible witness. It still took them 5 years for my Refugee Status to final be successful

Due to lack of proper training when dealing with victims of human trafficking, some of my experience with the police was quite horrendous to say the least

Lack of effective communication amongst main stakeholders (such as Home Office, NGOs, the Police and victims) caused a massive delay

The NRM conclusive decision for my case was a total waste of by the time it was actually delivered. It took them over 3 years; they finally came back with a negative decision. Even though that decision should have been made within 45 days of a reasonable grounds decision

Due to the lengthy delay in my human trafficking case, the CPS advised that my traffickers would not be prosecuted. However they were both arrested

Throughout the duration five years whilst I was awaiting a decision from Home Office, I was moved around over 11 times (which included supported accommodation and NASS accommodation)

From this experience I have learnt that the Lord is more than able to take us through any circumstances or situation. My spiritual walk with Christ has definitely grown a lot stronger because I was able to rely on my inner strength; something I didn’t even knew I had.