A victim of human trafficking with underlying medical conditions has received crucial intervention after his health began to deteriorate during the COVID-19 crisis.
The man, in his 60s, was rescued from forced labour in the UK last year as part of a joint operation between global anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice and the police, and has been supported by the charity ever since.
Janusz* was trafficked to England from his home in Poland, after being falsely promised work, food and accommodation.
During his exploitation, he was malnourished, made to live in an overcrowded and unclean room, forced to work in poor conditions, and defrauded; his ID was taken from him, bank accounts were set up in his name, and payments were made using his details.
Janusz suffers from a number of underlying health issues, which were exacerbated by his exploitation.
One of the charity’s Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSA), who provide legal advocacy and specialist support for survivors, said: “Janusz had poor living conditions; his bed was just a mattress on the floor, he had no hot water, he was given barely any food to survive – he was malnourished – and he was too afraid to run away for fear of what his traffickers might do.
“Despite being rescued from this exploitation, he is still incredibly vulnerable, and is classed as being in the high-risk category for Coronavirus.
“However, during a routine call we found that none of the health services are communicating with him via a translator, and he barely knew anything about the pandemic. No one had explained the situation to him.”
Hope for Justice has provided support around Janusz’s accommodation, legal rights and benefits. With the help of a translator, the team communicated with him about the virus and explained why it is important for him to adhere to the self-isolation and hand-washing advice.
The charity learned that Janusz had been unable to access vital medication to treat his long-term health conditions.
He had begun to deteriorate quite significantly, and he was not receiving adequate support.
The IMSA therefore liaised with the survivor’s GP, clinic, hospital departments and other health professionals and managed to obtain the right medication for his diagnosis.
“I explained that this man could die from COVID-19 if he catches it because he is extremely high risk,” the IMSA said, “I was put in contact with a doctor who was able to help by providing the medication he desperately needed.”
The survivor said: “I am incredibly grateful for everything that Hope for Justice has done to help me.”
*Name changed to protect identity of victim