Do you doubt that human trafficking still exists today?

We invite you to read the stories of people who have experienced THAT and recovered from it. All stories are based on true facts and the names of the heroes have been changed.

Irina, 26 years old., exploitation for illegal sexual services 

I saw an ad in the Chance newspaper. There was a job offer abroad. Legal. Only this entry. I made a call: they briefly told me that the job was in Germany with a guaranteed 6-month contract. I couldn’t find anything in Moscow, I was alone with two children and I had debts! I agreed to go.

I was met at the train station by Vadim and Viktorija. Both Russians, as I understand. Rude in behaviour and appearance. Something I didn’t like about them. I ended up in a brothel. They kept me in Germany for half a year and then transferred me to the Netherlands.

In Germany, the place was officially a nightclub. The basement was occupied by illegals or undocumented women. My documents were taken away, and they showed me pictures of the girls who worked there – mutilated, some of them murdered. I was threatened. At first, when I refused to serve customers, they beat me. Several times.

After I made a secret short phone call home, my daughter, with the help of an international NGO, contacted the Russian Consulate in the Netherlands. She called the toll-free helpline of the Human Trafficking Victims’ Assistance Centre. Dutch law enforcement officials managed to identify my whereabouts and return me to Russia as an illegal worker.

That was the end of my nightmare, which started with an unreliable newspaper advert. I tell everyone: “If you’re unsure about a job offer, always do some research on the internet: about the company and about the people who are offering you a good salary.”

Jonas, 35 years old., exploitation for committing crimes – fraud

“I got the whole scheme – what to say, what data to collect. Where they got the phone numbers and the information that these people had money, relatives or several houses – I still can’t understand.”

I worked for a while in a post office, then in a call center. It closed. Over a beer, my friend and had a chat about needing money, maybe even to go abroad, although I’ve never even been on holiday.

A few days later, I received a call from Piotr. A stranger. He introduced himself, assured me that we really went to the same school together. He mentioned that he had got my phone number from my friend. He briefly explained something about putting together a team to work in England. It will be like a call center. But I’ll be able to work in an apartment at first, where all the first employees will live together. They will take care of the food, the taxes. He asked me if I had money for the trip. When I said no, he immediately said he was giving me some kind of discount.

He would come, take my passport, order everything I needed for the trip. We lived in that apartment and spent 16-18 hours calling Lithuanian numbers and trying to get personal codes, pins, bank account numbers. We would pass this information on to other people – the so-called managers. They would take out loans or continue the calls and persuade them to transfer the money immediately into bank accounts.

He controlled everything – when we ate, when we went to the toilet, so that we didn’t talk to each other. We were like zombies. I gained trust with the organizers and stole my passport. I needed to steal my own passport to escape!

Tony, 39 years old., labor exploitation abroad

I moved with my wife and children from Belarus for peace of mind. I started looking for a job online straight away. We didn’t have much savings, my wife is mildly disabled but can’t work – it’s stressful for her to move to another country like this. We agreed that she would stay home with the children and I would work.

I have found a company that handles international freight. The only downside was that I had to go on a business trip to Germany. But the money was good. I signed a Lithuanian version of the employment contract – although I asked for it to be translated, but they said they didn’t have the time and that translations cost money, and they would take a percentage of the first salary, so it stayed that way. I left. I started working.

One month, then two months passed with no salary. I started asking around. I was reassured by the appointed representative of the company that everything was fine. He asked: “What are you missing? The food has been bought. We’ll pay you more later.”

I had to send the money home, and I started demanding it. They reminded me that the papers were with them – I had no rights here. I started to threaten to take the goods to somewhere unknown. We fought. He let me go but didn’t pay the money. He also threatened me not to try to talk to the police, because he knew where I lived and that I had a family.

When I returned, I wrote a statement. We started contacting the help centre to see who could help with the process. I saved the name of the company. After a while, it was dissolved. But I think they just registered under a different name and kept looking for people to exploit for work without paying money.

Oksana, 22 years old., years old, marriage of convenience and sexual exploitation

I lived with my mother and stepfather in a small provincial town. I graduated from high school at 12 and immediately went to Ireland to earn money – maybe for my future education, or maybe just to start my life.

I met other Lithuanians there. Later on, we started to communicate with Indians and Pakistanis renting an apartment nearby. I was fascinated by Elin. He was so attentive, he didn’t spare anything. I didn’t tell my mother about our relationship, because she would have been a bit old-fashioned and wouldn’t have approved of my idea of marrying him. Yes, getting married. He proposed to me very quickly.

Even before the marriage, he hinted all around that if I wanted to live with him and didn’t like it, I could divorce him. I was surprised: “Why should we divorce, because we love each other?” I remember he said that at first we would live in the same flat with his 3 friends. From the first day of my marriage, he forbade me to work and started controlling what I ate and when. I felt lost and didn’t understand what was happening.

Then, a week or so later, I was raped by his cousin in the same flat. My husband knew and did nothing about it. He just said that these are the conditions of our marriage. And that’s how I have to thank him for all the gifts.

A year later, he started talking about another girl, a Lithuanian by the way. When they brought her to the apartment, I had to shut myself in a separate room, I couldn’t talk to her or warn her. I’m sick of it. He bought a ticket to Lithuania and said: “Go and visit your mother. I’ll call you in a week and buy a ticket back.”

We never saw each other again, because I didn’t call him anymore and he didn’t look for me either. I can’t recover until now. I am very grateful for the opportunity to talk to a psychotherapist once every two weeks and for the help I received from an organization that helps women like me. I could not afford it myself. With the help of a social worker, I found a job in Lithuania. She helped me get back on my feet.

Tomas, 18 years old., exploitation for the commission of crimes – robberies

My friend Remis and I used to hang out at a local newsagent. In the evenings, there were girls and guys who already had cars. I tried to get home as late as possible, because my mother and stepfather would often fight. My little brother would cry.

Yeah. A friend of mine said that Remis and I are doing nice, we’re into sports, so we could do a lot of good things. He said he was assembling a team to work in England. I wanted to have my own money, because you can’t ask for it or get it from your mother or stepfather.

We’ve come to nowhere, with nothing to do. He offered to hold our passports for us when we were in London. The next evening, we went to the supermarket and he told us to move fast – to get the phones and accessories out of the electronics shop. Take everything that is more expensive.

Every other day we used to go on these trips. After a few days, I wanted to quit, because it seemed like we had played enough. But the threats started, they made it clear that they wouldn’t let us go so easily. I used to go and every time I would think about how to escape.

In the end, the police caught him. There was a crew near the center. Now it seems that maybe it’s a good thing it didn’t last long.