Trafficking survivor studies law to help others

A young man trafficked to the UK as part of an arranged marriage, says he is determined to help others in the same situation, following his experience of abuse and slavery at the hands of his new family.

MD, originally from Bangladesh, but now living near Newcastle, was promised spousal documents by his new family and a chance to live in the UK. However, once the marriage had taken place abroad and the couple were expecting a baby, the family turned on him, demanding money and land in exchange for his visa and access to his son.

“Like anyone, I hoped for a decent family life,” said MD. “But before I could move to the UK, my wife stopped contacting me, and her parents threatened to cancel the visa documents. They forced my parents to re-mortgage their home so I would be allowed to see my baby.”

Instead of continuing with the paperwork MD needed to live legally in the UK, his father-in-law made him travel to Belgium, where he was hidden inside a dark box in a lorry for the 21-hour journey to England.

“When I was dropped in Dover my father-in-law was waiting,” said MD. “They took my phone, documents, money, everything. But I got to meet my baby son for the first time.”

MD was then forced to work in his father-in-law’s restaurant for 14 hours a day.

“There was a lot of physical abuse from my father-in-law and wife,” he said. “I was only given food once a day and I wasn’t paid a single penny.

“When I spoke to my family in Bangladesh it had to be on my father-in-law’s phone in front of him. He threatened to call the police if I complained. He said I would be arrested and deported for being here illegally and that I would never see my son again. There was a lot of mental trauma and I still have the physical and psychological scars.”

After several months, MD found a phone at the restaurant and used it to call a friend for help. His friend told him that what he was experiencing was modern day slavery, and gave him the number of a help line.

“My wife’s family were still demanding that we hand over our land in Bangladesh,” said MD. “One night, my (now ex) wife attacked me, leaving my face bleeding badly. The violence, the mental trauma, was literally unbearable. I called the helpline, who contacted the police.”

When the police arrived, the family denied MD was there, but he managed to attract their attention through a window. He was rescued and taken to a safe house run by City Hearts.

“City Hearts helped me in my journey tremendously,” he said. “My case worker was always there for me. But being a man and a victim of modern slavery is hard,” he added.

“People ask me why I didn’t just leave. But at the time I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I had to accept it as I didn’t have documents and couldn’t work. And I didn’t want to leave my child.”

Following his escape, MD had traumatic journey through the family courts to get access to his son, as well as the pain of seeing the criminal case against his former father-in-law dropped.

However, despite his ongoing slog through the asylum application process, MD is optimistic about the future, and is determined to advocate for the rights of vulnerable people.

He has already successfully won a legal battle against the Home Office to overturn a ‘study ban’ on asylum seekers and is currently studying law at Northumbria University. He volunteers in the community and has won the National Societies and Volunteering Award.

“Education is so important,” he said. “This vulnerable group of people should be given access to education so they can do good in the community. When I think about what to do with my life I think of my mother. She was my everything and she encouraged me to help people. To help my community. And that’s what I’ll do. I will study the law and I will be their voice.”