Child holding up a sign that says: When I first came to placement, I felt lonely, I didn't know what the purpose of the placement was and I wanted to run away.

Linh's story

Linh was found in a nail bar by police after a member of the public alerted them to children working on the premises.

Linh is 15 years old and came to the UK approximately one month ago following a long journey from Vietnam which she estimates took around one year.

A long and traumatising journey across the world

In Vietnam, Linh lived with her mother and three younger siblings, their father had gone to find work but had not returned. The family lived and slept in one room, and struggled financially, often going without food. Linh went with her mother to the nearest town several hours away to look for some work. They met a man who told them he could find them work. That night, Linh and her mother were loaded into a lorry; it was dark and she describes feeling scared. At points, the van would stop and people would be taken off. At some point, Linh fell asleep and when she awoke, she couldn’t find her mother. Linh finds talking about her journey distressing; she becomes tearful and visibly shakes with fear. 

Linh knows she was taken through many countries, but is not sure exactly which ones. She knows she was in Thailand, Turkey, Greece and France. From Turkey, she mostly travelled via lorry with other Vietnamese people, however, she states that her journey also involved her being moved into the jungle and running for a number of kilometres before being put onto small boats and hidden in order to be transported across the sea to Greece.  

Trapped through debt bondage

Since Linh has been in the UK, she has been held captive in premises and made to cook and clean for others, and more recently she has been made to work for long hours with no pay or protective equipment at a nail bar in a local town. She has been beaten and is not allowed to move freely within the premises without permission from the adult males there. She says rice and bottled water are delivered every couple of days and she is told that the work she is doing is paying off her debt to be brought to the UK. She has not been given any money and has not been told how much she owes. Linh has been told that if she does not pay back her debt, her family in Vietnam will be harmed, and that if she tries to escape she will be found and killed. This form of ‘debt bondage’ is a very common way in which children and adults who have been trafficked are controlled by traffickers. The debt continues to grow, and there is no realistic hope of ever paying it back, because it is a tool to keep control of victims, and is why many people return to their traffickers.

When she was found, Police referred Linh to Independent Child Trafficking Guardianship (ICTG) service, and a Guardian visited Linh in placement within four hours.

When I first came to placement, I felt lonely, I didn't know what the purpose of the placement was and I wanted to run away.


On the road to healing from her trauma

Her guardian supported her to share information about her experiences and attended appointments with her. The guardian continues to provide emotional and practical support for Linh, including supporting her to settle into her foster placement, attending asylum interviews, helping her into education and sourcing a church for Linh to attend locally.

Linh has grown in confidence and self-esteem, and whilst she still needs significant support to recover from the trauma of the abuse she suffered, Linh is thriving.

A quote card that says: "In the beginning it was difficult. But slowly things get better. You get used to people. People get used to you too."

Josie's story

Josie is 15 years old and has been living with a family in the UK for two years.

Girl in red hoodie standing in front of a wall looking straight on defiantly

Amari's story

After experiencing exploitation Amari* was referred to the Independent Child Trafficking Advocacy (ICTA) service. A Barnardo’s independent guardian supported her and worked with other professionals to develop her confidence, skills, and resilience. 

A girl sitting on the ground with her knees to her chest

Trafficked children

Barnardo’s is one of the few organisations in the UK to provide direct, specialist support to trafficked children, helping them cope with the experience and emotional trauma.