The Hidden Horrors of People Trafficking &Domestic Slavery

As regular readers to my blog will know, we open up our house on the Airbnb website and have been doing so now for more than a year.  I even wrote a Kindle book on how to create a successful listing on Airbnb that currently like a comets swings between the bottom of Amazons top UK and USA 10 Bed and breakfast books and out another 50 or 60 at other times which is still really good.

Though it is a great way of utilising a spare room and helping both ourselves and guests at the same time, the real reason we do this is because if affords us the opportunity to meet such a wide variety of almost entirely wonderful people which we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.  Just in the past weeks we have had actors, classical musicians, backpackers and most recently a charity worker named Camilla.

Camilla is a wonderful person and just the sort of person we love to have stay with us as not only is she nice and interesting in her own right but she also works in an industry we knew next to nothing about but were interested in, that of human trafficking as well as having given advice to victims of domestic slavery.  Only in August I wrote a little about it in a post on historic and modern day slavery

I first became aware of domestic slavery several years ago when a Saudi Prince Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir, a grandson of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, was jailed in 2010 for killing Bandar Abdullah Abdulaziz in a London hotel after subjecting him to a ‘sadistic’ campaign of violence and sexual abuse.  Though given a life sentence, he was inevitably shortly afterwards flown home to serve out his sentence there.

This is only one of the most prominent cases of a crime that affects all the major towns and cities in the western world.  The chances are that someone near you is being kept in appalling conditions, with no rights, freedom or chance to escape.

In 2010, I saw the excellent and heartbreaking film I Am Slave which is based on a true story wherein a young girl in Sudan is abducted from her home and taken to the capital of Khartoum where she is beaten by a strict matriarch of a rich house-hold.  She is treated worse than many of us would treat our pets as her father desperately searches the streets of Khartoum looking for her.

I Am Slave

The movie is mostly based on Mende Nazer, a British author, human rights activist and a former slave in Sudan.

After several years, the family re-locate to London where amazingly things goes downhill for the girl who with her passport taken is now totally helpless and lost in a city thousands of miles from home.  Having been repeatedly beaten, threatened and abused by chance she meets with a kindly passerby who she arranges an escape with and the hope to return home to her family in Sudan.

For more information on similar cases, it is well worth watching the always excellent Channel 4 Dispatches documentary show on this subject here which if I remember aired about a similar time to the film.

It is said that there are over 5,000 domestic slaves in the United Kingdom alone.  They are smuggled in with false passports that are confiscated once inside the country.  Primarily, many of these cases involve host families that are from a different culture and country where such treatment is often given a blind eye to or in some cases even beneficial as the domestic worker has a bed and is often free to continue her private life albeit with some restrictions.

Once a domestic worker is smuggled into a country like Britain or the Unites States, things often go even worse than in their indigenous country.  Domestic slavery is obviously illegal here and knowing that, the house-holds become extra strict in their treatment of workers and their movements.  The workers or slaves become isolated as they often do not speak English, can go for years without seeing anyone outside the family or criminal organisation holding them and fearful of physical violence against them.  Frequently they are told that by the family that they are illegally in Britain or America and even if they escape to the authorities they will be imprisoned for a long time.

It is not even solely a problem just with immigration and people trafficking.  There have been cases in the news of white British men being abducted by gangs to work as slave labour in other parts of the country or continental Europe.

In July 2013 another Saudi Royal, Princess Meshael Alayban was charged with human trafficking in Los Angeles after bringing a lady from Kenya to work round the clock for a pitiful salary.  Her maid was only saved when she was seen in a distressed stated carrying a heavy suitcase alongside a busy road.

If 5,000 people in Britain sounds a large number then think of the 1 million similarly suffering workers from Africa and Asia in Saudi Arabia alone.

As this sort of crime is always hidden from view, it is one which goes unnoticed by almost everyone.  As such there are few resources spent on trying to solve the situation.  However in the U.K. at least there are several charities such as Kalayaan and the charity where our guest Camilla works at Unchosen.


Unchosen is an anti-trafficking charity that organises film campaigns to raise public awareness and combat all forms of human trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in the UK and Ireland.

Unchosen is largely funded by Comic Relief which gets its donations via the BBC fund-raising nights of the same name.   It is currently a very exciting time for Unchosen as they are about to have – on Tuesday- an awards ceremony to announce the winning films from the first ever- ‘Human Trafficking Short Film Competition‘- you can find out more info about it by looking at the film competition section on our site.  We were completely blown away by the standard of entries to the competition- these are really some of the best films i have seen about trafficking.  Also for more uptodate news about slavery in the UK/ireland globally- our facebook page is a good one to check out.

On Anti-slavery day which is October 18th, Unchosen will be screening a 90 second trailer in all of the EVERYMAN cinemas in the UK; and also beginning our UK & Ireland roadshow tour when they will be visiting more than 20 cities to raise awareness about human trafficking that happens right here.

Obviously there are more prominent good causes and many people don’t want to think about domestic slavery and people trafficking as they either think it doesn’t effect them or they have issues with immigration per se but whatever your views, no-one deserves kidnapping, abduction, illegal captivity, slavery and physical or mental abuse.

If you want to know more about these issues or perhaps want to help then why not take a look at the Unchosen and Kalayaan websites in the U.K. or Polaris in the USA.

We always seem to be lucky that we attract such nice and interesting people with Airbnb but this is the first time with Camilla we seem to have especially got lucky and we’re glad to help in any small way we can.

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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5 Responses to The Hidden Horrors of People Trafficking &Domestic Slavery

  1. Pete says:

    People interested in finding out more about this might also go
    Stop the Traffik is an international organisation working in all areas of people trafficking


  2. Cellar Door says:

    Reblogged this on CellarDoor's Blog.


  3. Wow, what a profound post, Steve. Thanks for the informative post and the shocking state of affairs.


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