A Vietnamese teenager seeking work abroad to fund a surgical operation for his mother was instead trafficked for forced labour and criminal exploitation, and sexually assaulted by those who were controlling him.
Quoc* was told that he would be working on farms and be able to send good money home. But instead when he arrived in the UK on a fake passport the traffickers gave him, he was picked up and then locked inside a property. He was made to cultivate cannabis by three men he didn’t know.
Quoc was trapped in this nightmare for more than a year, until one day he was suddenly brought out the property and put in a car. This is when he took his chance. When the men stopped for petrol, he managed to run away after pretending to need the toilet. He eventually found a police station and reported what happened to him.
He was referred into the National Referral Mechanism by the police and assisted by the local council’s children’s trust and Barnardo’s charity until he turned 18, when he was referred to Hope for Justice. While the police investigation could not locate the perpetrators, our Independent Modern Slavery Advocacy (IMSA) team were able to help Quoc by liaising with a vast range of professionals and organisations to ensure his case was not forgotten and did not slip through the cracks. We kept pushing to ensure his application for asylum was heard, to bring stability to his life and help him to move on.
Our IMSA who has been supporting Quoc said: “He was very anxious about his asylum case while he was waiting for a decision. He struggled to look forward to the future and felt stuck – he could not work, claim benefits nor move towards living more independently while he was waiting. His mental health was suffering and he rarely went outside.”
Thankfully, in May 2023, he finally found out his application was successful and that he was granted refugee status. This lasts five years, after which he can apply to stay in the UK indefinitely, if it is still too dangerous for him to return to Vietnam.
Quoc said: “My future is very promising and very bright, because this country is a civilised country and also very compassionate about victims like me. It is very supportive. I hope to be a good citizen.”
He thanked the team at Hope for Justice for the help he has received, saying: “This charity has been very helpful to me. Whatever I need, they have been there for me. They have helped me deal with the Home Office and asylum process. They got me a solicitor. They have always been there when I did not have a clue about this new environment that I’m in.”
He chose to share his story in the hope that others will know not to believe promises they are told by those promising to find them work abroad, and so that others who have suffered like he has might have a chance at a brighter future too.
*Name changed and image posed, to protect survivor’s identity. Image is from the series Invisible People © Rory Carnegie for National Crime Agency