A young woman is now living in safe accommodation after fleeing to the UK to escape sexual exploitation at a salon.
Ella*, who is in her mid-20s, was offered a job working at a beauty salon in her home country in Europe to help pay back a family member’s gambling debts.
Ella’s family had received several threats over the debts, which totalled thousands of pounds. Ella felt she had no choice but to take up the role as a general cleaner, travelling a long distance to the salon every day for work.
The salon owner offered Ella some free accommodation – an offer which she accepted to avoid the long commute. But she was locked inside the room and had her mobile phone taken away. She was then forced to provide sexual services to the customers who frequented the salon.
After three weeks, Ella managed to escape out of a window while the salon owner was out. She fled to a friend’s house, then to a neighbouring country, and onwards to the UK by bus and plane – a journey she undertook to get to safety.
Hope for Justice has been supporting Ella since the end of last year, following a referral from a charity in the North West of England.
One of our Community Engagement Specialists said: “Ella was exploited in a terrifying situation, whereby she was told that if she tried to escape the salon, she would be found and her family would be harmed and forced to work as well.
“Ella found some safety and security when she reached the UK as an asylum seeker. However, when she was referred to Hope for Justice, she had not been given the chance to share her trafficking account with anyone in the UK. Ella was not aware that she was able to access additional support, such as counselling for the trauma she had experienced, or other government-funded support she is entitled to as a recognised victim of trafficking. Despite having physical safety since reaching the UK, Ella had not felt she was moving forward with her mental and emotional recovery from her trafficking experiences.
“After assisting Ella to access this support, she told us that she was really grateful for our help, and that she was starting to feel really positive about moving forward and looking to future opportunities now available to her.”
Hope for Justice referred Ella into the National Referral Mechanism – the UK government’s framework for identifying victims of modern slavery – and provided support during this process, including connecting her with a support worker.
We are delighted that Ella is now safely housed and is in the process of accessing specialist counselling support to help her recovery.
*Name and image changed to protect identity of the survivor