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    Human trafficking presents demanding challenges to legislators, law enforcement and support services in EU Member States and elsewhere. Unlike trafficking in drugs and weapons - where material evidence is provided - the evidence of human trafficking rests with an abused and frightened person often not speaking the local language. Without the victim's cooperation, it is very difficult to detect and fight this crime. This section provides personal stories from victims of human trafficking who have been captured and exploited by traffickers - and who have been lucky to escape their perpetrators and survived.

    Maria's story

    My name is Maria and I am 24 years old.

    I have been raped, beaten, sold, cut with knives and threatened. I have scars and I am depressed.

    I come from a very poor family and grew up in the countryside of an Eastern European country, I did not regularly attend school and did not have a good formal education. When I lived at home my father used to drink a lot. He would beat me and my family. When I was 13 my sister sold me, to a man I did not know. He took me to Italy by boat, which was very dangerous. I did not know where I was going. Once we arrived in Italy I was sold again, to a different man. He took me to a house and raped me.

    I was a virgin until then.

    It was then that I realised what was happening to me. I started crying and the man started to beat me, hard. But neighbours overheard me screaming and called the police, who took me away and left me in a nunnery for protection. I was returned home to my family after two years. But just four days later I was sold again.

    This time by my father.

    He sold me to a different man, but now I knew what was happening to me. Again we went by boat to Italy, where I was kept prisoner for seven months. They controlled my eating and made me drink vinegar. Finally I was smuggled into the UK in a lorry. I was in London for five years. I worked every day, seeing 65 to 70 customers a day. I could earn up to £1,000 per day, but I had to pay £400 every day in 'rent' and £60 for a maid, as well as 20% of everything else I earned.

    The men who came to me were of all different nationalities. I did not ask any of them for help. I was too frightened. My traffickers threatened to kill me, and they threatened to take my sister too and do the same to her. I was beaten often, very badly. I have scars from it now, especially from my broken arm. I have been raped many times.

    I finally escaped with the other women in my house. We ran away with the owner's boyfriend and went to the police. The police brought me to Poppy.

    Although I am now free I am depressed. I will never forget what they did to me.

    This story is reproduced with kind permission from Blue Blindfold campaign. The Campaign aims to raise awareness among  key groups about the nature and extent of human trafficking in the United Kingdom. This initiative was launched in February 2008 at the House of Lords of the UK Parliament, with the support of the "All Party Parliamentary Group on Trafficking" an international campaign published by the UK Human Trafficking Centre in 2007.


    Xi's story

    Xi, from China, worked at a Chinese restaurant in Holland. Following a restaurant inspection, he was detained by the authorities as he was unable to produce valid a residence permit. In police interviews, Xi revealed that he had to work about 13 hours a day, 7 days a week, for just €1.50 an hour. The police treated Xi as a victim of people trafficking. He was given a temporary residence permit and Comensha helped find him somewhere to live.

    Based on Xi's story on COMENSHA the Coordinating Centre for Human trafficking in the Netherlands.


    Elena's story

    Elena was 28 when the factory where she worked closed down. Unemployed and desperate for money, she answered an advertisement in a local newspaper for au pair work in London.

    She met with her recruiter, who helped her fill in some forms and told her that a visa would be arranged for her. She was also asked to pay a $700 'deposit' up front before travelling, which she did with support from her family.

    Elena, who believed she was travelling legally, handed her passport over to her Moldovan trafficker at the start of the journey. Together they travelled overland by car, coach and plane to London, via Prague, Spain, Germany, France and Dublin. Elena realised she was travelling illegally when the traffickers gave her an Italian passport to use between France and Spain.

    When she arrived in London, Elena was told she owed her traffickers £20,000 in travel costs and that she would have to work as a prostitute to pay them back. She was taken to Soho where she spent four months working seven days a week, having sex with up to 20 men a day, in three different flats. She was allowed £15 per day for food, cigarettes and condoms.

    She was told she would pay off her debt much more quickly if she gave special services - including having sex without a condom.

    She was locked in and only allowed out for work, and was permitted no contact with other women.

    Elena was too afraid to say anything about her situation to the men who had sex with her, or even to the police who visited the flat once, as her traffickers had threatened to harm her family if she did. Eventually she managed to escape by jumping out of a second floor window after being locked in the flat alone one day.

    Elena now suffers constant back pain from the injuries she sustained during her escape, and is afraid to go out alone.

    Reproduced with kind permission from Blue Blindfold.


    Personal testimonies of victims of human trafficking

    A nine minutes video including interviews to four victims of trafficking.