In Vietnam, Mai’s family were living a hand to mouth, extremely poor with no access to education or medical care. Believing a visitor’s promises of opportunity and success, her family borrowed the money for her travel to Hanoi. When she arrived, Mai met up with the agent but he passed Mai onto another man. Mai was transported between locations and forced to have sex with strangers, often with up to ten men a day. She travelled from Vietnam, though several countries. Mai cannot recall all of the countries she was taken through but knows she was in the back of a lorry when she came to the UK.
Mai managed to escape from her traffickers. Without any ID, she wandered lost, unable to speak English, unsure of where she was and not knowing where she could go for help. Mai reached out to members of the Vietnamese community who offered her somewhere to live and regular meals. In exchange for this, Mai worked long hours in a high street nail bar. She received no money for the work she was doing and had no plans for ever being able to leave. The only people she met were people who worked alongside her, with similar stories to her own and customers who came into the shop who she was discouraged from speaking to.
Mai was questioned when Immigration officers visited the nail bar, identified as a potential victim of trafficking and modern slavery and offered support.
It was ten years after leaving home that Mai arrived at Unseen’s women’s safe house.
When someone is identified as a potential victim of slavery, they are offered a minimum of 45 days’ ‘reflection period’. During this time, they can access legal advice, medical services, psychological support and education. At Unseen, we recognise the importance of a holistic approach in their recovery. Women like Mai can also take part in relaxation sessions each evening to help them cope with the broken sleep and recurring nightmares. They are offered in house education sessions to build their confidence and self-esteem before they feel able to join classes in the community. They are encouraged to explore the therapeutic value of exercise. Staff offer structure and routine as the women look at what they want to do next. Sometimes it’s the mere act of being next to someone as they cry for all they have lost that reassures them they are not alone and helps them look to the future.
Unseen will continue to support Mai through our RIO outreach service as she transitions into more independent living. She is waiting on a decision on her asylum claim, improving her English and has made friends in the community.
You can find information on recognising the signs of trafficking and modern slavery and other helpful resources on Unseen’s website www.unseenuk.org
You can support Unseen’s #letsNailit campaign. The campaign is aiming to highlight the prevalence of slavery within the nail bar sector and to equip members of the public to understand what indicators of slavery they should be looking for if using nail bars. The victims identified in nail bars are typically young women/girls.
There is a call to action for people to paint their nails neon and post photos on social media with the hashtag #LetsNailIt during Anti-Slavery Week, to look out for the signs of slavery and report it via the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 and to donate via text by sending LETS17 £5 to 70070.Let's Nail It 2017!