Peter's* Story

When I was a child, my mother cared for me singlehandedly; sometimes with help from a man she called Uncle London. When I was 20, I was preparing myself for secondary school, and Uncle London promised to take me abroad. My mum agreed and in August 1992, I prepared to go on what I thought was the start of an adventure to a better life.

When I got on the plane, I remember being so happy. I was travelling internationally to make a better life for me and my mum. I thought I’d be able to help her, to buy new things for her. I was dreaming big.

We got to Paris early in the morning. The men I was with told me exactly what I needed to do when I arrived: get off the plane, look happy, and hand my passport to the woman at the counter. I then saw Uncle London for the first time since leaving Lagos and he asked me to follow him.

We arrived at a house, and two women were there. They took me to a room and I fell asleep, looking forward to speaking to my mum. In the evening, they bought me food and I asked where Uncle London was. She said she didn’t know who he was. I didn’t see him for four weeks after that.

It was then I realised that I was in a problem. The women told me that if I tried to escape, the police would arrest me and deport me.

I was kept in that room for four weeks, until Uncle London and two other men came to get me. He told me that we were going to London, and when we got there everything would be fine. He said he’d send me to school and I could live with him. He told me only good things.

That’s when my journey into slavery started. I was forced from house to house, forced to sleep with multiple older women. I was forced to take drugs and drink alcohol. When I was tired, I was beaten.

I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know anyone. I got used to drugs and alcohol and had to accept this way of life. I had to accept that I had no one that I could trust, and that I was not able to speak to my mum ever again.

6 years later, one of the women offered to help me if I lived with her, so I cooperated. Someone came to get me to take me to her house, but I suspected I was being forced into another bondage. On the way there, I told them I needed the toilet and managed to escape at a service station. I flagged down a car, who took me to the train station and I got the last train into London.

When I arrived, I had to sleep rough. Another homeless man told me I could find help in Peckham. I travelled there and was introduced to the owner of a shop, who let me help with cleaning. I slept on the shop floor or at Peckham Centre.

It was there that I met my wife, who was also sleeping rough. We went to Hackney, where the owner of a shop let us sleep on the floor. During the day, we both went out cleaning. We managed to raise enough money for a bed space in Hackney.

Now, we’re being supported by Hestia. We have two children, 11 and 9 years old and they are our world. We help where we can supporting other victims of modern slavery and homeless people with substance issues.

It’s a long journey, but we’re beginning to recover and rebuild our lives.

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About our Modern Slavery Response service

Hestia's Modern Slavery Response service started in 2011, providing safe houses in London and Kent as well as pan-London outreach support in every London borough to those affected. Since the service started, we have supported over 2,500 victims, including 839 adults and 317 dependent children in 2017/2018 alone.

Our Phoenix Project empowers members of the public to come together and volunteer their time to support victims of modern slavery in their local community. Through your support and skills, you could change the life of someone affected by this brutal crime.

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About Underground Lives

Hestia is the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in London. We campaign and advocate for victims of modern slavery to ensure their voices are heard and they get the  support they need to rebuild their lives.

In 2017, Hestia released the first report in the ‘Underground Lives’ series to reveal the true face of modern slavery in London. 

Our latest 'Underground Lives' report revealed that police response to modern slavery hinders the prosecution of traffickers.

Read our Underground Lives reports