Ahmed managed to escape human trafficking and he’s now studying to become a mental health nurse in Glasgow (Picture: Joel Rodriguez/Getty)
No matter your stance on immigration in the UK, the topic’s ability to stir up controversy can’t be denied.
But for every debate about facts and figures, and the latest government schemes to reduce legal migration and dangerous small boat Channel crossings, it’s easy to forget there are real people behind the numbers.
In the year to June 2023 the UK’s net migration was 672,000 people, with 1.2 million people arriving in the UK and 508,000 leaving, the Office for National Statistics says.
Plus, the number of people forcibly displaced across the world has massively increased, from nearly 1.7 million in the 1960s to more than 110 million people in 2023 – with that figure showing no signs of shrinking.
However, as well as the people who choose to move to the UK, there are sadly a number of people who are illegally trafficked here.
The National Crime Agency says referrals for modern slavery and human trafficking have increased by just over 10% in the year to last December, with almost 8,000 referrals for potential victims of exploitation.
Many of those victims work in construction, agriculture, and car washes – as well as being exploited within the sex industry and at cannabis farms.
One such person is Ahmed, who left his native Tanzania after his safety was threatened there.
Ahmed now volunteers with the Central and West Integration Network alongside his studies (Picture: Joel Rodriguez)
When he arrived in the UK he was victim to human trafficking – he wasn’t told where he was being taken and had his phone and passport taken from him, so he couldn’t escape.
Ahmed, 23, was forced to work in a warehouse and slept with a number of others in a single room. At first he was told he’d be allowed to go out at weekends, but his traffickers didn’t allow it.
Thankfully, he managed to escape and was put in touch with Migrant Help, a charity which has supported hundreds of thousands of displaced people since it was founded nearly 60 years ago.
Ahmed now lives in Glasgow and says he feels ‘safe’, with ‘loads of support’ around him.
He explained: ‘After enduring a challenging period of working in poor conditions, I was apprehensive about starting my new life in the UK.
‘For the first couple of months, I was very scared. I was fortunate enough to form a friendship with someone who also spoke my language, Swahili, but we weren’t familiar with the area and people used to laugh at us.
‘Upon arriving in the UK, I was taken from the airport and not told where I would be going. I was told that I would be looked after but soon after, I realised this not to be the case.
‘I didn’t have any money and was told I needed to work – my phone and passport was taken off me so I couldn’t leave.
‘I was working in a warehouse amongst others, I didn’t know where we were. At night we had to sleep in this small, dingy room.
He got his place studying Health and Social Care thanks in part to support from adviser Isobel (Picture: Joel Rodriguez)
’When I first arrived, I was nervous and scared. I did not know anyone and had no support. I felt isolated. Now I feel safe and have loads of support around me.
‘I feel a little bit better but sometimes I am still afraid because I don’t know what will happen to me next. I did not expect what happened to happen to me before.
‘After everything I have been through, it can be hard sometimes to feel fully secure.’
When Ahmed was first contacted by Migrant Help, they put him up in a hotel – but after his horrific experiences he was too scared to leave his hotel room.
Now thanks to Isobel, his adviser and friend form the charity, he’s volunteering at Central and West Integration Network, which supports asylum seekers, refugees, migrant workers and BAME people to access resources in Glasgow.
And after a couple of attempts, he’s now studying a Level 4 diploma in Health and Social Care with ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages).
Ahmed explained: ‘It took a few attempts but after a successful application and interview, In September 2023, I started studying at Glasgow Kelvin College.
Ahmed hopes to help others once he’s qualified as a mental health nurse (Picture: Joel Rodriguez)
‘I’m very passionate about helping others and dream of becoming a mental health nurse once I’ve finished my studies to help people who may be struggling with mental health related challenges.
‘Education is very important to me and I knew that this is something I wanted to continue. I didn’t really know where to begin and was unaware of the application but Isobel was a massive help in getting me into college.
‘We sat down and she supported me with my CV and college application, also helping me with interview preparation.’
Migrant Help is celebrating its 60th anniversary with the ‘Sharing Hope’ campaign, a series of photos of displaced people taken by photographers who are refugees themselves, to showcase the real people and stories behind the often divisive headlines.
It’s hoped the project will encapsulate ‘the humanity, shared joy and relationships forged’ by displaced people and those who support them.
To find out more and see more stories, visit Migrant Help’s website here.
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