Human trafficking: I dreamed of a better life (1)

By Shreya Karia

Assured of KSH24,000 a month, housing and airfare Njeri* took on a job as a hotel housekeeper in Saudi Arabia. Her hope of opportunity and comfort quickly turned to
calamity. Instead, she found herself imprisoned as a domestic worker with her basic human rights violated. Forced to work more than 18 hours each day, with little food and no access to healthcare or outside contact, this was far from the job she had been promised. Denied the right to practice her faith Njeri was subjected to gruelling physical and mental abuse on a frequent basis.

With many people searching for an escape from poverty; the path in search of a better life does not always turn out as intended and is fraught with dubious characters and heartache…

A Real Problem

The story of Njeri is not unique. On average 2.4 million young women, men and children are trapped at any given time in what has been described as ‘modern day slavery’. Imprisoned against their will by brutal employers, they are forced to work in factories or farms, coerced into prostitution or begging, fearful of the consequences if they do not obey.

Human trafficking, the ugly face of globalisation, is a shameful tarnish on our fundamental conviction that all people everywhere deserve the right to live and work with safety and dignity. Such is the complexity of the issue that Interpol places its gravity on par with the cross border trafficking of illegal drugs and firearms.

Too Good to be True

On a journey of a life-time, paid for by her ‘foreign boyfriend’, Lucy was to spend three
months in Germany. She felt extremely lucky to have met someone who would show her
a life she had never seen. And such a life it was! Instead of showering her with culture and
pizaz, Lucy’s boyfriend had brought Lucy to work as a sex slave. Confiscating her travel
documents he denied her food for many days. When she didn’t obey him and his partners,
they would torment her; viciously beaten and constantly raped Lucy was living her worst
nightmare. “Some of the things I experienced… were beyond human imagination, you can
only wish they were scenes in a horror movie,” she recalls. A chance opportunity gave her
the courage to contact the German police. Rescued and taken to a safe house it has taken
many months of counselling and rehabilitation to help overcome the atrocities she faced.
Lucy was brave enough to testify against her tormentors who were subsequently charged
with sexual assault. In many cases such as these, where young women have been trafficked to Europe, the IOM has had to utilise its strong network base to ensure their safe return. This is not always easy and there is not always a clear path. Solwodi, an organisation based at the coast, works closely to identify and repatriate girls, like Lucy, trafficked to Europe and forced into prostitution. Through their efforts several women have returned safely home.

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