Andrius* had a difficult and disrupted childhood, surrounded by alcoholism, violence and, sadly, suicide. He ended up in the care system in his home country in the Baltics.
A flatmate, someone he thought of as a friend, moved to the UK and then urged Andrius to come over and join him, promising a good job paying £300 a week, free accommodation and food. He even arranged his minibus travel.
The reality was grimly different. Andrius was made to work 50-60 hour weeks delivering charity leaflets and collection bags. He did not control his own wages – they were paid to his ‘friend’ who then gave him occasional cash handouts, with deductions made for travel and other things – despite the initial promise that these would be free for Andrius.
He had to sleep on the floor in a filthy house. It was completely different to what he had been promised and what he had imagined, and he made clear he would never have come if he had known the truth.
He tried to stand up for himself, but things kept getting worse – he was told he owed more money, that he needed to pay for drugs and alcohol that his friend had bought that Andrius didn’t even want, and then he started to be locked in the house or told he couldn’t leave. He was threatened, sometimes even with a hammer. He felt controlled, exploited and intimidated. He had no phone and didn’t know how to get help, as he felt too embarrassed to share the truth with any of the other workers.
One of the reasons he tried to put up with situation at first was his fear of ending up homeless, but as things got worse, he realised even this would be preferable to what he was enduring.
So when he managed to escape one day, he ended up on the streets for a few weeks. This was when one of Hope for Justice’s charity partners discovered him and contacted us, having spotted the signs of trafficking. The charity workers had previously received Hope for Justice training, so they knew what to look out for.
Andrius struggled to trust anyone or to disclose what happened to him. He was frightened and in a bad way physically and emotionally, with ripped and torn clothes and shoes, and barely any possessions.
Hope for Justice’s West Yorkshire Hub and our partners explained the support he could receive, as well as helping him with essentials like food and emergency accommodation.
He wanted to report his case to the police and consented to be referred into the National Referral Mechanism for safe house support, but unfortunately at first received a ‘negative’ decision.
Our team believed what Andrius told us, and so we worked to overturn this decision. With additional evidence and clarifications, fortunately this was successful – he received a positive decision, entitling him to safe house support while the authorities assess his case ahead of an eventual ‘conclusive grounds’ decision about what happened to him.
Andrius has said how thankful he is for all our help, and for the support he is receiving at the safe house, where our team have been visiting him and helping him with supermarket vouchers.
*Name and image changed to protect identity