Victims' Stories

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

The victims’ testimonies included in this Report are meant to be illustrative only 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 uncaptioned photographs are not images of confirmed trafficking victims. Still, they illustrate the myriad forms of exploitation that comprise human trafficking and the variety of situations in which trafficking victims are found.


With the help of a labor broker, 16-year-old Iok left Nepal for a job in Qatar. He was too young to legally migrate for work, but the broker who recruited him obtained a fake passport so Iok would appear to be 20 years old. The broker charged Iok an illegally high recruitment fee, so he left with a large debt that he had agreed to pay back at a 36 percent interest rate. Two months later, Iok died of cardiac arrest while working in harsh conditions. Migrant workers in parts of the Gulf, including Qatar, have complained of excessive work hours with little to no pay in scorching heat. Many workers also allege their housing complexes are overcrowded and have poor sanitation. Iok’s parents received no money for his two months’ work.


Thema paid approximately $1,480 to Sierra Leonean recruiters who promised her a nursing job or hotel work in Kuwait. Upon her arrival in Kuwait, however, Thema was instead forced to work as a domestic worker for a private Kuwaiti family. Thema worked all day, every day without compensation. Her employers forbade her from leaving the house or from using a cell phone. The family eventually returned Thema to her recruiter, taking advantage of a guarantee allowing them to obtain a refund for domestic workers they are not happy with. She ran away from the recruiter to the Sierra Leonean Embassy and was placed in a Kuwaiti government-run shelter with approximately 300 other former domestic workers. Thema likely faces the same fate as other trafficking victims in Kuwait who run away from private homes—the cancellation of her residence permit and deportation.


Ali and 19 other Pakistani men responded to a newspaper advertisement seeking fishermen to work in Saudi Arabia. Many of the men accepted the recruiters’ promises. Others questioned the odd visa and recruitment process, but the recruiters assured them the official paperwork would be completed during a stop in Dubai. Once in Dubai, however, the recruiters confiscated the workers’ passports and flew them to Somalia, where they were forced to work long, grueling hours, without pay, for a Somalian fishing company. One Saturday, the men found a way to call their families and a human rights NGO from a local mosque. Their boss entered the mosque, beat them, and confiscated their cell phones. Fortunately, the workers hid one phone and used it to organize a rescue mission through the NGO. Twelve of the men were able to return home.


Natalie and Dara, eager to earn money and go to school, left Nigeria with the help of men who arranged their travel and convinced them good jobs awaited them in Cote d’Ivoire. Once there, Natalie and Dara were instead forced to have sex with men every night to pay back a $2,600 “travel debt.” After two years of being subjected to sex trafficking, Natalie and Dara contacted a UN Police officer (who was in the area to investigate other suspected cases of human trafficking) and escaped. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime helped the girls return to Nigeria, where they participated in social service programs supported by regional NGOs. Their traffickers were convicted in 2014 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.


When she was 14 years old, Cara met Max while on vacation in Greece with her mother. She fell in love with him and, after only a few weeks, Max persuaded her to move in with him, rather than return to England. He soon broke his promise to take care of her and forced Cara to have sex with strangers. Max first convinced her that the money she made was helping to keep them together; he later threatened to kill her mother if she tried to stop. In time, Max gave Cara to another trafficker who forced her to send postcards to her mother depicting a happy life in Athens. Cara eventually suffered an emotional breakdown and, once hospitalized, was able to ask for help. Hospital staff contacted her mother, who had no knowledge of Cara’s abuse. They returned to England, where Cara is rebuilding her life and aspires to help other trafficking victims.


Tanya was only 11 years old when her mother traded her to a drug dealer for sex, in exchange for heroin. Both Tanya’s mother and the drug dealer have been indicted on multiple charges, including sex trafficking. In addition, the drug dealer was accused of rape as well as videotaping his sex crimes. At the end of the school year, after four months of such abuse and being forced to take heroin, Tanya went to live with her father and stepmother and confided in them about what had happened. Both her mother and the drug dealer face the possibility of life in prison if convicted on all counts.


At 13 years old, Effia moved to the United States with family friends, excited to learn English and go to school—something her parents in Ghana could not afford. When she arrived, these so-called friends forbade her from attending school and forced her to clean, cook, and watch their children for up to 18 hours a day. The father physically and sexually abused her. Effia received no payment and could not use the telephone or go outside. Six years later, after a particularly severe beating, she escaped the house and a neighbor called the police. With help from an NGO, Effia is finally in school and plans to become a nurse.


Ruth’s grandmother could not afford her tuition, and Ruth, due to physical disabilities, had a difficult time finding employment. When a family friend offered to both take care of Ruth and pay for her studies if she worked for him, the grandmother eagerly accepted. But the friend did not follow through on his promises. He never allowed Ruth to attend school, he forced her to work as his domestic servant and as an agricultural laborer for third parties, and he confiscated all her earnings. The man also raped Ruth repeatedly and abandoned her when she became pregnant. With the support of an NGO, Ruth received care and skills training and eventually returned to her community.


The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran Tariq’s town and kidnapped his daughter, along with the wives and daughters of many others. After a week of silence, Tariq finally received a phone call —his daughter had gained access to a phone shared by several of the girls imprisoned, and she had called to tell him she was going to be sold that day for $10. In the past year, ISIL has abducted and exploited thousands of women and children, sold them in markets and sexually enslaved them, forced them into marriages, or subjected them to forced labor. Family members like Tariq are often left helpless, with knowledge of their daughters’ or wives’ whereabouts but unable to prevent the horrendous abuse of their loved ones.


Aisha was at a friend’s wedding when she was abducted by Boko Haram, along with her sister, the bride, and the bride’s sister. They were taken to a camp where her friends were forcibly married to Boko Haram fighters. Aisha, at 19 years old, had to learn how to fight; she was trained how to shoot and kill, detonate bombs, and execute attacks on villages. She was forced to participate in armed operations, including against her own village; those that refused were buried in a mass grave. Aisha saw more than 50 people killed, including her sister, before she managed to escape.


A man approached Bruno outside a homeless shelter in Prague and offered to help him find work and housing in the United Kingdom. He even offered to lend Bruno money for travel, commiserating he had once received help from a stranger. Bruno accepted and traveled with the man and seven other people from Prague to the United Kingdom via Switzerland. The recruiter took everyone’s identification documents and, once in the United Kingdom, turned their documents over to the men’s new bosses instead of back to the workers. When Bruno arrived at his new boss’s house, he was forced, through beatings and threats, to perform construction and factory work, clean, and provide childcare for almost 20 hours every day. He ate one meal each day and was never paid. Bruno eventually fled to the Czech Embassy in London, and an NGO helped move him to a support shelter in the Czech Republic.


Nakaji had to leave school at an early age to help his struggling family by taking a job in a factory. One day, a stranger offered him a better-paying job as a driver. Nakaji eagerly accepted, excited at the prospect of learning how to drive, and went with the man who, for $80, drugged and delivered him to the Tatmadaw, Burma’s armed forces. Nakaji and six other boys, the eldest 17 years old, were sold to the army and moved to a base in the capital, where they lived under armed guard. Upon realizing what had happened, Nakaji’s father, a retired sergeant, contacted the police but, according to Nakaji, they “wouldn’t help until my father mentioned the International Labor Organization.” Nakaji was released when he was 15 years old and now works on the docks.


A Palawan fisherman recruited Datu and 25 other men to work as fishermen on a neighboring island in the Philippines. The workers met with the recruiter twice before moving to the island, and they received money at each meeting that reaffirmed their belief that well-paying jobs awaited. At their new job, however, the men were not paid at all. Instead, their traffickers charged them P60,000 ($1,360) each for room and board. They forced the men to fish illegally and physically abused them if they did not catch enough fish. The men endured forced labor for two months before being released. Both the recruiter and fish trader face charges of human trafficking, and the owner of the boats remains at large.


Over a period of several years, five Ukrainian brothers fraudulently promised 70 Ukrainians well-paying janitorial jobs at retail stores in the United States. They further lured the workers with promises to pay for their room and board and all their travel expenses. Once the workers arrived in the United States, however, the traffickers exacted reimbursement for $10,000-$50,000 in travel debts, making them work 10 to 12 hours per day, seven days a week to repay the debt, almost never providing compensation. The brothers abused the workers physically, psychologically, and sexually, and threatened to hurt the workers’ families if they disobeyed. The brothers brought many of the workers into the United States illegally through Mexico. Over time, several new recruits were detained at the border and other victims bravely came forward, exposing the trafficking ring. Four of the brothers were convicted on charges of human trafficking; one remains a fugitive and is thought to be in Ukraine.