A woman who was left homeless while her trafficking case ‘slipped through the system’ is now in a safe house far away from her perpetrators. Cristina*, who is in her early 30s, was trafficked to the UK from her home in Romania by a man, an old acquaintance who pretended to be her friend.
He promised her a legal job and a better quality of life. But when she arrived, she was made to live in appalling accommodation and repeatedly asked to engage in sex with men as well as other illegal jobs including selling drugs. When she refused, Cristina was drugged, physically abused and held inside a property for several months where she was exploited for sex and other criminal activities.
A member of Hope for Justice’s outreach team said: “Cristina was betrayed by someone who pretended to offer her a better quality of life, but in fact intended her harm. She was subjected to horrendous abuse – despite her courage in standing up to her traffickers. Thankfully she was able to escape from the property but with nowhere to turn, she ended up living on the streets. Cristina was experiencing mental health problems at the time. She was homeless, extremely vulnerable to re-trafficking, terrified, and without knowing where to turn for help.”
In January 2021, she reached out to Hope for Justice and our outreach worker soon identified her as a potential victim of human trafficking. Cristina told us that she had already reported her exploitation to the police and contacted another organisation for help, but had not received the right support. When we followed this up, we found she had “slipped through the system”.
“The organisation did not speak to a first responder organisation about Cristina’s referral into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). And so Cristina was left homeless, even more vulnerable and re-traumatised by the whole experience and process”, our Outreach Team member said. At this stage, Hope for Justice intervened and advocated on Cristina’s behalf for her to receive the support she needed.
We assisted her in securing temporary accommodation, food and essentials via her local authority. We also liaised with local partners and assisted the council with the NRM referral – the UK’s formal framework for identifying survivors of modern slavery. Within just two days, Cristina was living in safe accommodation, and soon after, she received a positive ‘reasonable grounds’ decision from the NRM, entitling her to access to support, including accommodation, financial support and counselling.
Cristina told us: “I am very happy in the safe house and am so thankful to have finally received the support I so needed. I am very grateful to Hope for Justice for the continuous support that I have received from you throughout the whole process.”
Our outreach team member said: “Thankfully Cristina is far away from her traffickers. Now she is receiving the right support, we hope she will be able to recover and rebuild her life.”
*Name and photo changed to protect identity of survivor