Ann’s Story – human trafficking victim


A small 16-year-old Nigerian girl named Ann walked into the Glasgow Offices of the Scottish Refugee Council.   Alone and very much afraid she told the staff of how she had been deceived into coming to the United Kingdom from the Nigerian city of Warri.   

She reported that she had been raped, held prisoner and then sold to men as a sex slave.

Staff at the centre immediately contacted the police. Two uniformed male officers arrived but Ann refused to talk to the two men. She saw these two dark uniformed officials, not as her protectors but as two elder males. To her eyes and experience they were there to suppress her; to arrest her, to lock her up in prison and send her back to Nigeria where she would be reunited with her traffickers.

It was clear she was extremely scared, maybe because in her homeland of Warri, you did not talk to the police.

The Family Protection Unit were asked to see if she would be able to speak to them as a softer approach. Ann was supported in seeking asylum; would this help to lessen her fear? She now came under the care of the Asylum Assessment Team. Two female plain clothed officers came to speak with Ann; they supported her as over time she made a written statement.

Ann told of how her true mother had been a farmer in the Delta State of Nigeria. Ann was one of many children in the family and that her mother had great difficulty in bringing up and caring for them all. Unable to take care of her, at the age of five years it was arranged for Ann to go and live with another family.

Her new home address was in the city of Warri, Delta State, Nigeria. Ann attended an Anglican girl’s school where she learnt to speak and write in very good English. From the accounts given by Ann her upbringing with her foster parents was one of joy and happiness.

However, the area in which Ann grew up in was one of political and tribal turmoil. Warri is a Major Oil city in Delta State, Nigeria, with a population of over a million people. Warri is also a major port city in Nigeria and serves as the cargo transit point between the Niger River and the Atlantic Ocean. The population of Warri has grown drastically since the 1960s because of the worldwide oil boom. This growth, however, has exceeded the development of transportation, housing, and urban services.

At the end of the 1990s the Warri Crisis broke out in the city and its outskirts. Riots left hundreds dead. Six Shell Nigeria oil installations were taken over by youths, leading to a drop in oil production.  The Delta State in and around Warri became an area of violent inter-tribal actions. Historic intertribal rivalries and tensions are exacerbated by substantial inequalities with strong competition for jobs and resources in the urban area.

It was in this setting at the age of 15, Ann’s foster father died. She told how he died during his sleep at night. It was the family’s beliefs that if the husband died before the wife then it is ‘bad magic’ and for him to die during his sleep compounded the belief that evil Juju spirits were involved in his death.

In order for the ‘bad magic and evil spirits to be expelled from his corpse his family took the body back to his home village in Delta Ibo, Asaba. There a ceremony would be held to allow his spirit to be freed from the evil ones.  Ann’s foster mother would accompany her husband’s body and she would take part in that ritual.

Ann remained in the family house with the brother to her foster mother, her Uncle Joseph. Ann told the police she did not know her Uncle Joseph’s last name. She knew that he a student at the University of Lagos.  After a week living with her uncle, a friend of Joseph’s came to the house. His name was Moses. He stayed with them for two days. Joseph told Ann that Moses would take her abroad to send her to school. Joseph reassured her that everything would be okay. Later that week all three travelled to Lagos. They stayed in a flat that belonged to Moses. Joseph had to leave while he attended University and left Ann at the flat with Moses.

Soon after Moses told Ann to pack her bag as they were going to the airport. Moses told her, that if she was ever asked, she was to say that she was his daughter. She did not have a passport but Moses had all the documentation. They flew to Heathrow were another Nigerian man met them and he drove them both to a flat somewhere in London. During the journey Moses spoke in familiar terms with the driver; Ann understood they knew each other well.

They arrived at a block of flats that was about three stories high. Once inside Ann discovered that there were another two girls staying there. It was a two bedroom flat. Ann was to remain in the flat for about two weeks.

Then one evening without warning she was taken from the flat by Moses and told to sit in the rear of a car between two men that she had not seen before. She was driven to another flat where Moses took her inside. Inside was a man who she did not know or had seen before. Moses told her to stay with the man and he left. The man invited her to sit next to him on the settee. He moved closer to her and then he attempted to kiss her. She pushed him away but he persisted and was grabbing hold of her as he tried to kiss her. Ann struggled and fought him away. After Ann had refused his advances, he stood up and began to shout at her. “Why are you behaving like this, I have paid for you, you will do what I have paid for” He then made a telephone call. Ann could hear the man demanding his money back as the girl was not doing what he had paid for. Very soon Moses arrived and told her to get back into the car. Nothing was said during the journey back.

Back at the flat Moses and one of the men from the car forced her into a chair in the living room. They held her down. She was very scared and struggled to break free, but the two men were strong and she could not move. Moses then produced a needle and stuck it into her hand. He stuck it so deep into her skin that it made her hand bleed. He then held out her hand a squeezed it. The pressure forced her blood out of the wound and it dripped onto a lid of a container. He mixed her blood with the contents of the container.

From the container with his fingers he removed a red substance. He then smeared this over her shoulder and down her arm. The substance was sticky like Vaseline but it was very hot. She attempted to scream out but the other man was holding her down with his hand over her mouth.As they pinned her to the chair, Moses told her;

“Because your blood is now in a place, you have sworn that you will not tell anyone. And that if you think I have brought you here for free, I have not and you have to do what I say or bad things will happen to you. You must not run or tell anyone.”

The men released Ann from their grip. She remained seated in the chair, shaking and scared. Afterwards Moses placed a plaster over where he had cut her hand.   She attempted to clean the red stuff off but it made her skin dry underneath and it began to flake. It marked her skin and she was unable to remove it.

The following day Moses told Ann to come with him. He marched her to a waiting car. She was told to get in and again she had to sit between two men. She was driven a short distance to another flat.  Again Moses took her inside. This time there was a Jamaican man waiting for her. Moses pushed her toward the man and turned around and walked out leaving her alone with this man. He grabbed her and dragged her to the bedroom. She screamed but he told her that no one would hear her. He pushed her to the bed and then he raped her. Afterwards the man looked down at her and said, ‘Sorry, but I’ve been paid to do that to you I had to do it.’

He had been employed to begin Ann’s indoctrination into sex slavery.

Ann went to the bathroom and remained there. She was bleeding from her vagina, as she had been a virgin. She remained in the flat with the male asleep on a bed. She too fell asleep on the floor. She awoke in the morning to find herself alone in the flat. She was unable to leave as the doors and windows were all locked. Later Moses came to the flat and let himself in. He told her to get into the car.  After that nearly every two days she was taken from the flat to premises where she was forced to have sex with other men. This continued for the next three months.

On that day a regular customer known to Ann by the name of Colin had hired her. Ann had previously told him her story when he had asked her why a girl of her age was doing such work. They discussed about what was happening to her. Colin had taken pity on her. He told her that he wanted to help her and that he was going to help her escape. He told her of his plan. He was going to take her and purchase a coach ticket, allowing her to run away to a place called Scotland. They would not find her there. So quickly they gathered themselves and left the flat and got into his car.  It is thought that Colin drove her to Victoria coach station, he put her onto a coach handing the bus driver the ticket. He gave her instructions that directed her to the refuge centre in Glasgow.

Within months Ann’s case came to me in London at the Human Trafficking Team at New Scotland Yard as Ann had entered the country in London.  I travelled to Glasgow and spoke with Ann, explaining her case would be fully investigated. Adding that a request would be made to the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria to carry out investigations in her home town to support her statement and to identify those responsible for trafficking her and sexually exploiting her.

It was stressed to her that the investigation will be thorough and the culprits will be found both here in the United Kingdom and Nigeria. The investigation sounded straightforward and would be essential if Ann were to be afforded asylum in the UK.  Ann had provided the name of the school she had attended and the address where her family had lived.  Her story once verified by speaking to those around her in Nigeria would allow her details to be registered with the Boarder Agency and Home Office. All this would move towards showing Ann as a witness of truth; corroborating her account and supporting her evidence.

Even though all the people around her now treated her gently and with great kindness the power of her beliefs was too strong to overcome.  She told the social worker that she just ‘knew’ there would be a terrible outcome if she spoke to the police any more.  As far as Ann was concerned the Gods now had a part of her soul and there was no hiding.

It appears all this became too much for Ann to bear; she disappeared without trace.  We hope that she will surface again but my experience tells me that she has again been again drawn into an horrific life.



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