Hoang's* Story, of being a victim of forced-gang related criminality

*Names changed to protect identities

Read the 'Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims' report

Hoang grew up with his mother in Vietnam. Although they experienced poverty, Hoang was happy and hoped to receive education and improve his future. At the age of sixteen, Hoang was involved in a protest against the dumping of industrial waste in a residential area during which he had an altercation with a police officer.

The next day, his mother was approached by a man who advised her that her son needed to leave the country because he was now a police target. Hoang’s mother borrowed a large sum of money and gave it to the man who promised to take her son to safety.

Hoang travelled in the back of a lorry to Russia. When he arrived there, he was taken to a shoe factory and forced to work 12-hour shifts seven days a week.

Hoang slept at the factory and was subjected to beatings whenever his supervisors thought he was working too slowly.

He was only allowed a ten-minute break each day to eat. Hoang assumed that his work would pay back his mother’s loan. Ten months later, Hoang’s traffickers returned. He was put at the back of a lorry again and travelled from Russia to the UK. Throughout the journey, Hoang was forced to stay inside one of the many wardrobes that were loaded in the back of a lorry.

In the UK, Hoang was taken to a house and locked in the premises. The instructions he received were to care for the plants that were in the house and to protect the equipment from potential thieves. On some days, his captors would return to bring him a sandwich.

Two weeks later, men broke into the premises to steal the equipment. This was the first time he realised the plants were cannabis. Thinking his life would be in danger if his captors returned, Hoang ran away.

Hoang slept on the streets until he met someone from his community who gave him shelter and access to a phone. When he tried to contact his mother back home, he was unable to. He managed to get hold of a neighbour who informed him that his mother had left the city in fear of the traffickers who were coming to collect the debt.

Hoang was arrested during an immigration raid at a Vietnamese nail bar whilst he was visiting a friend. He spent months in immigration detention before telling his story and being referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and Hestia’s support.

When asked about his hopes for the future, Hoang told us he hopes to find his mother alive.

Read the 'Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims' report