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I'm always appalled when I hear about people trafficking.
It may shock you to learn that it's happening right here in the UK,
and a huge number of these people are children,
brought here from other countries and forced to work illegally
and kept both hidden and silenced.
These are boys and girls that desperately need our help.
Lisa is 23. She had such tough childhood experiences
we need to protect her identity.
We're not using her real name, and her words are voiced by an actor.
Now she's a young mum who loves to cook for her children.
Lisa was born in West Africa and was brought up by her parents
until she was 13, when they left her to live with another family.
Soon, one of them offered to send Lisa to London to work for
her daughter and get an education. It sounded like a good opportunity.
Her mother said I was coming here to look after her two children.
When the children are in school, I will have the opportunity to
go to school myself, because I didn't know how to read or write.
I was so excited.
But from the moment she arrived,
Lisa realised she'd been badly misled.
She spent all her waking hours cleaning
and serving the woman's family. There was no chance to go to school.
And aged 13, completely alone in this country,
she was effectively a slave.
I had to wake up at five o'clock and start cleaning the house.
She said that she spent a lot of money to get me over here, that
if I'm not doing my job properly, she will do anything to hurt me.
She beat me. She pulled my hair.
She kicked me. She made me sleep in the cold.
She said, "Your parents are not here.
"Who is going to come to look for you? Nobody."
Now, the traffickers make a huge amount of money, but because
it's such a hidden problem, the exact figures are hard to come by.
It's thought that hundreds of children are brought here
every year and forced into domestic slavery and criminal activity,
like drug cultivation and sexual exploitation.
One day, a row in the house Lisa lived in escalated into more
extreme violence than ever before.
She pulled a knife on me, and I was like,
"I'm not going to survive this time, so I have to escape from her."
Lisa fled, empty-handed, into the unknown.
I was just walking down the street, and I was not wearing any shoes.
I was crying. I was like, "I'm nobody."
Within a few hours, a passer-by had taken her to the social services,
but it took time to persuade them that she was a child.
Her traffickers had given her
a fake passport that said she was in her twenties.
She lived in a hostel for adults and was preyed upon
by the male residents before she was finally given a foster home.
It's hard to imagine just how lonely and damaging those
experiences must have been for Lisa or to think about the children
going through similar things right now, here in this country.
But there is something you can do to help.
There's an incredible charity called ECPAT UK who are doing really
important work in helping to piece those broken lives back together.
ECPAT UK campaigns on behalf of child victims of trafficking
Their goal is to eradicate trafficking
and stop the exploitation of children
by British citizens elsewhere in the world.
Debbie works closely with young people who have been trafficked.
She runs ECPAT UK's weekly groups for young men and women, offering
projects to help survivors move on and deal with their experiences.
Lisa is a regular, after being put
in touch with the charity by her lawyer.
Every Friday I'm thinking, "I can't wait to go to the group."
When I come here, I'm so happy.
It's a safe place for young people
to come and feel secure and gain those life skills they need,
and to understand what safe relationships are.
We've done a drama project and a film project. At the moment,
we're doing an art project to be creative and be with each other,
because of course, a lot of time, they've missed their childhood.
Thankfully, ECPAT UK can provide a safe haven for children who
have escaped this kind of abuse,
but they're also working towards stopping this exploitation
from taking place behind closed doors all across Britain.
The charity runs training for border staff,
social workers and the police,
people most likely to come into contact with trafficked children,
so they can give them the proper care.
But identifying these vulnerable children is hard.
They're told what to say by their traffickers.
Everyone will be like,
"Well, I hear the same story," and they're not being believed,
but actually, that in itself is an indicator of trafficking.
So it's really challenging.
Debbie often brings along members of the young women's group to
help with training,
like this 24-year-old. We'll call her Sophie.
You may find her story upsetting.
She was brought to London when she was only 12 by a family friend
and immediately given domestic tasks in a stranger's home.
When my mum's friend went back to Nigeria,
then things became worse, me doing more,
like literally tidying up the whole house.
If I made the bed nice and tidy, she'll give me a slap and say,
"You need to smarten up the bed."
The part I hate to talk about the most is being introduced to
different men coming to the house. That's the scary bit about it.
I ended up being made to sleep with these men.
Finally, Sophie could take no more of the abuse,
and this enraged her captor.
She started fighting with me, telling me,
"If you don't do this, then you will need to get out of my house."
She then pushed me out of the house, chucked my things out.
I ended up walking away from the house, and I kind of got lost.
Suddenly, only 12 years old,
Sophie was homeless and penniless in a country she didn't know.
And from there, I was roaming about.
I was sleeping on the streets for eight to nine months,
jumping on buses just to keep warm.
I had nowhere to go. I was literally depressed.
Finally, Sophie was taken in by a fellow Nigerian, and then it was
thanks to ECPAT UK that she managed to make plans for her future
and start at college.
So, I'm here to meet some of the young people who have been helped
by ECPAT UK to cope with their incredibly traumatic experiences.
There's Sophie and Lisa from West Africa
but others from Vietnam and Bangladesh.
I want to know what ECPAT UK means for them.
Basically, because we've all been through the same situation.
It gives us that little bit of relief to say, "OK,
"you're not alone, and you didn't go through all that by yourself."
We only want to feel safe and to feel we have care from each other.
And just being with other people who have been through your experience.
We're like a family.
Without their support, I wouldn't be where I am today.
I have my two children. I go to college. I'm working as a carer.
So I'm so happy now.
It's remarkable to think that these young people I've just spoken
to have got such a positive outlook on life,
considering what they've been through.
You could hear their stories, but I could see it in their eyes,
and that's thanks to ECPAT.
And with your support,
the charity can continue doing its great work in helping
children get over the trauma of being trafficked and basically
make their lives worth living again. So please give generously.
To give by phone, call:
Calls are free from mobiles and landlines.
You can also donate £10 by texting:
Texts cost £10 plus your standard network message charge,
and the whole £10 goes to ECPAT UK.
For full terms and conditions or to make a donation online,
visit the Lifeline website:
Or, if you'd like to post a donation,
please make your cheque payable to ECPAT UK and send it to:
..writing ECPAT UK on the back of the envelope.