Home News 20+ Nigerian woman on japa, speaks on slavery and ra.pe in UK 

20+ Nigerian woman on japa, speaks on slavery and ra.pe in UK 

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20+ Nigerian woman on japa, speaks on slavery and ra.pe in UK 

It’s a BBC exclusive… Rose told the BBC her “life was hell” when she came to Britain

20+ Nigerian woman on japa, speaks on slavery and ra.pe in UK 
20+ Nigerian woman on japa, speaks on slavery and ra.pe in UK 

Sitting in the living room of a Salvation Army safe house in Cambridgeshire, Rose looks like a regular 20-something.

Her clothes and friendly smile tell little of the four-year ordeal that brought her from Nigeria to this refuge.

She says her dreams of a new life in Britain became a nightmare of punishing work, physical assault and ra.pe.

She is nervous to tell her story, but wants people to understand the reality of modern slavery in the UK – a crime hiding in plain sight. 

Rose left Nigeria full of optimism for all that Britain has to offer. 

The first of five children, her father had been a trader until he lost his shop, which meant the family could not pay for her to continue her education. 

So when a family friend from church told her of an opportunity to become a nanny for a wealthy UK couple, who would sponsor her studies, she jumped at the chance. She travelled to the UK on a six-month tourist visa. 

When she first met the couple, she says they seemed “nice” and gave her a room in their four-bed apartment, but she soon found the work was not as advertised. 

Rose says she was stuck indoors doing cooking and cleaning every day.

Rose, not her real name, says she was taken to a restaurant owned by the couple, where she would cook and clean from 17:00 to 05:00. She worked six days a week, and on her only day off did more chores at home. 

“I felt so exhausted… so empty. This was not what they promised me,” she says. Rose says the gruelling work pattern continued for a year, with no wages and no sign of her starting her studies. 

“That’s when it dawned on me – ‘Oh, these people bring me here to work for them as a slave.'” At the time she could not call her family because of the home’s CCTV, so called when she took their little girl to the park. 

Even then, she did not want to tell the truth. “When I call [my mother] and she asked me, ‘How are you doing?’ – I would lie to her. ‘I’m fine, I’m OK, they are planning to send me to school.'” 

She says the couple would shout at her, calling her “stupid” and “useless”, which made her “very scared”. On one occasion, she says the wife slapped her for a perceived act of disobedience. 

‘My life was hell’ The Covid-19 pandemic made matters worse. All the other staff left the restaurant, leaving her alone cooking and cleaning all night. The wife also returned to Nigeria, which meant Rose had sole care of her daughter. 

Describing her routine, in which she would get only a few hours of sleep each day, Rose breaks down in tears. 

She says the situation left her trapped and exposed to a new form of exploitation. “The man abused me in so many ways. Sexually, emotionally, physically. 

“He ra.ped me countless times because I can’t talk to anybody. 

“My life was hell.” 

Her escape came when she confided in a friend at the restaurant, who over months persuaded her to go to the police. At first, she was very reluctant because the couple made her fear the authorities. It has taken time to recover. 

“I didn’t have that confidence any more because I didn’t see myself as good enough, I didn’t see myself as a human being.” 

It is no surprise to Rose that the people she worked with, and the customers she served, had no idea of her ordeal. 

“I see people every day, they see me laugh and smile. Inside I’m crying.” 

Rose’s story is all too familiar to the Salvation Army – the charity that has held the government contract for supporting victims of modern slavery since 2011. 

Offering economically disadvantaged people a dream job or educational opportunity is a common method used to entrap victims, who are told they owe a debt to their captors and must work to pay it off. 

Territorial director for anti-trafficking, Kathy Betteridge, says in spite of increased awareness there are still too many falling through the net. 

“For every one person we’ve rescued, there will be seven others still in captivity,” she says. 

The charity calculates it has supported 22,000 survivors and the numbers are growing year on year. 

The Salvation Army says the couple who allegedly forced Rose to work for them were arrested and interviewed by police. No charges have been brought and inquiries continue. 

Rose has received an initial decision from the Home Office to say there are “reasonable grounds” to say she is a victim of modern slavery but is awaiting a “conclusive grounds” determination, which can take many months. 

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