My name is Nancy and I am a victim of modern slavery. I am turning to you, the public, for help because this is my last effort to stay away from violence and abuse in my home country.
I came to the UK in 2008 when a relative promised me a good education and a better life. When I arrived, I was enslaved for four years in domestic servitude. I received no education and I was constantly under my trafficker’s watch.
In 2011, I finally found the courage to run away and I was homeless for three years, sometimes able to find a couch or room to stay in with church members. I looked everywhere for support and finally a lady told me about the Red Cross, who enrolled me into the government system called the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2014. Luckily, in the same year, I was formally recognised as a victim of modern slavery.
Unfortunately, in the UK, this does not come with any immigration status and I had to apply for asylum. Less than one year after coming forward as a victim I was denied leave-to-remain on the basis that it is safe to return to my home country of Nigeria. For me, it was not safe because my trafficker was there.
Because I was too scared to be sent back to Nigeria, I became homeless to try to find a way to stay in the UK. I was exposed to additional violence and crime because I was on the streets. This did not help my recovery. For the last five years, I have battled unsuccessfully to get asylum and I am still at risk of being returned to Nigeria. After living homeless in the UK for almost a year, I was able to find additional legal support to submit a new asylum claim but this triggered even more trauma.
Although I was told that entering the NRM would allow me to begin my rest and recovery, this has not been the case. I have experienced additional trauma from the NRM and asylum process.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m being re-trafficked because I have been moved without any notice or information about where I will be moved and who will be picking me up. I have moved five times. I am also told that I should trust the providers and they will be helping me with achieving a better a life. I have not seen this come true.
I am forced to justify my story over and over and told that I’m faking my trauma symptoms. In fact, my anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and panic attacks have gotten worse. As an asylum seeker, I am not allowed to work, and so I must sit in the safe house and I’m left to think about all of the horrible events over and over again. I can distract myself from the problem by going to different activities but the larger problem and the fear of my trafficker is always there. The only thing that has helped is meeting other survivors who are going through the same thing and we can share our fears with each other.
I have not been able to access counselling regularly, especially because most counsellors do not have experience working with survivors of modern slavery.
About a year of my time was wasted, waiting for a response from the Home Office just to be told that my new claim was lost by the government in a flood. This claim included a lot of evidence and documents that showed how my trafficking impacted my mental health. When we went to submit these documents again, the Home Office said that they were out of date.
Instead of submitting a new (third) asylum claim, my only option was to challenge the original decision to deny my asylum. Less than one year after coming forward, how could anyone be safe to return to their home country when their trafficker is there? How can someone deemed to be a victim of modern slavery be forced to the point of homelessness and destitution?
I am asking you to help me appeal to the Home Office to grant me leave to remain in the UK.
I went through four years of trafficking, but I’ve been waiting six years to rebuild my life. The Home Office has the power to change this. Going into the NRM was not the freedom I was promised. In the last eight years since I left my trafficker, I have relied on the good will of people like you.
Can you help me gain my freedom? If I stay in the UK, I will be fighting for the freedom of other survivors’ as well.
Please sign this petition and read more about my journey in The Guardian.