Victims' Stories

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

The victims’ testimonies included in this Report are meant to be illustrative and to characterize the many forms of trafficking and the wide variety of places in which they occur. They do not reflect all forms of human trafficking and could take place almost anywhere in the world. Many of the victims’ names have been changed in this Report. Most photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims. They illustrate the myriad forms of exploitation that comprise human trafficking and the variety of situations in which trafficking victims are found.


Vihaan, a maritime machinist, accepted a job in the oil industry on a boat off the coast of the United Kingdom, thinking the sacrifice of leaving his family would be worth the money he could send home to support them. Once he arrived, the job was not as promised. Vihaan was not paid and had to work long hours under difficult conditions. When the Indian owner of the vessel abandoned the ship due to unpaid debts, he left the crew stranded with their wages unpaid. Vihaan and his crewmates decided they would not desert the ship until they had been paid, and waited seven months before the Indian bank that owned the ship agreed to settle the unpaid wages.


Maya was 22 when she fled her home country of Syria due to conflict in the region. She was promised a job working in a factory in Lebanon, but when she arrived she was forced into commercial sex along with more than 70 other Syrian women. They endured severe physical and psychological violence. Eventually, police raided the apartment units the women lived in and arrested 10 men and eight women who had been part of the sex trafficking scheme.


Rajiv arrived in New Zealand on a student visa to enroll in a business management program. Before courses started, he travelled to the Bay of Plenty, where he knew there was agricultural work, to earn extra money for school expenses. He soon found himself in a situation he could not leave. His employers forced him to use fake identification documents so he could work 80-hour weeks illegally in kiwi fruit orchards. Rajiv and other migrant workers lived in fear of being deported or kidnapped if they complained about the grueling work. Rajiv’s employer refused to give him his promised wages. After several months, Rajiv escaped the orchards and sought assistance from the New Zealand authorities.


Nicole left her impoverished family to work as a maid in Kuwait with the intention of sending her earnings back home. For nine months she worked constantly, suffered physical and verbal abuse, and received no pay. When her work visa expired, her employer took Nicole to the police and falsely accused her of a petty crime. Nicole tried to explain her innocence and reported that she had not been paid and had been abused over the past nine months. The police did not listen and instead jailed Nicole for six months. After her time in jail, Nicole was deported and returned home without any compensation.


Working with a recruiter in Venezuela, Sarah accepted a job in a nursing home in Trinidad and Tobago. She was thrilled by the chance to earn more money, yet nervous that she had to leave her home and did not have enough experience in elder care. When Maria arrived in Trinidad and Tobago, she realized she had been deceived. The recruiter informed her she owed a large debt, and instead of working at a nursing home, she was forced into prostitution at a local hotel bar. Her recruiter confiscated most of her earnings each night.


Lilly lived in a small town in Mexico and needed a job. After she inquired at a local dry cleaning establishment, the owners offered her a position and a place to stay, which she happily accepted. Soon after beginning, the owners accused her of stealing and began to force her to work without pay. For almost two years, the owners confined Lilly to an ironing station in the shop and physically abused her if she stopped working. She was allowed only one small meal a day and little access to water. Lilly finally managed to escape the shop and alert the police, who raided the establishment.


Boko Haram attacked Abdul’s village and kidnapped him when he was 14 years old. They trained him to handle assault weapons such as machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. The group kept him and forced him to carry out various operations during which he was forced to kill 18 civilians. They also forced Abdul to gather intelligence on government forces, where he risked being recognized and prosecuted as a Boko Haram member. After being forced to fight for three years, Abdul decided to flee while on a spying mission, but was recognized as Boko Haram and arrested when he entered an internally displaced persons camp to look for his parents.


Tim lost his job in 2009 and was on the edge of destitution when a couple recruited him to work in their construction business, offering him housing and three meals a day. When he arrived at the couple’s property, however, he found workers were living in a crowded and dirty trailer. The couple shaved his head, took his clothes, and confiscated his phone and identification. They held him captive, physically and verbally abused him, and forced him to work laying cement driveways. Eventually, the traffickers were arrested and Tim was released.


After Lai’s family fell into debt to loan sharks, her mother asked her to help the family earn more money. Lai, just 12 years old, was examined by a doctor and issued a certificate of virginity. Her mother then delivered her to a hotel where a man raped her repeatedly. For nearly two years, Lai’s mother continued to sell her to make money to pay off their debts. After learning her mother was planning to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, Lai fled her home and found sanctuary in a residence for sex trafficking victims.


Paula was walking home from the market in her hometown in Nigeria when a man approached her and offered her a job in Italy that included good pay and housing. The man told Paula she would have to pay a substantial recruitment fee for the job, but she did not have enough money. Paula reasoned that a job in Europe was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the proposed salary would be enough to pay back the debt easily, so she borrowed the money and eagerly accepted. Paula and a group of other Nigerian women traveled with the recruiters to Italy. Upon arrival, the women realized they had been deceived; the recruiters forced them into prostitution to repay their travel debts. Paula and the other women were discovered during a police raid.


Sofia traveled from her small town in central Ukraine to Moscow with a friend on the promise of a job working in a market. When they arrived, the man who had offered them the job confiscated their passports and drove them to an old factory surrounded by barbed wire outside the city. Guards carrying guns ensured they could not escape. For almost two months Sofia worked 18-hour days, bottling, packing, and loading vodka from the plant’s illegal stills. Sofia was finally able to escape when police raided the factory.


Amy was 12 when her father, an alcoholic and drug addict, began abusing her physically and sexually. When she was 17, Amy began staying with her friend, Lisa, to escape her father’s abuse. Lisa told Amy that she knew an agent who could help her become a model—something Amy had always dreamed of. Instead, the man forced Amy into prostitution and kept all the money she made, locking her in a hotel room for weeks, giving her very little food. He threatened to kill her if she ever left. Amy was finally able to escape and now hopes to train to become a certified nursing assistant so she can help others.


When Mariel approached Jasmine and promised her a job in an internet café in Manila, Jasmine readily accepted. Mariel recruited Jasmine and more than a dozen other girls from their small village and arranged for the group to travel to Manila together. At the port, however, a security guard became suspicious of the girls traveling with Mariel and asked to see their identification and work documents. Mariel failed to present proper documentation and was arrested. Officials later learned that there had never been any internet café jobs, but rather Mariel had planned to force the girls to work in commercial sex by advertising them online.


When Pasha was 10 years old, his family pulled him out of school so he could help out by earning money working in a brick kiln. Pasha’s family had borrowed money from the kiln owner to help take care of Pasha’s ailing father, and the interest charged on the loan made the debt insurmountable. For three years, Pasha has worked 12-hour days hauling a handcart full of dirt alongside his father and siblings. If Pasha’s family cannot pay off the debt, he and his siblings will inherit it and possibly pass it on to their own children.


Mary dreamed of being an electrician in Uganda. When she was 16 years old, her parents could no longer support her or pay her school fees; they sent her to live with an aunt in a village outside of Kampala. After her aunt had an accident, Mary was soon struggling for money. A neighbor helped Mary get a job in a nearby bar, where her boss forced her to have sex with some of the bar’s patrons. One day, a social worker came to the bar and told Mary about an organization that could help her escape the bar. With the support of the NGO, Mary was able to leave, return to school, and get her degree in electronics.