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Tamar – 8 April 2019


History of Tamar

Tamar was founded in 2013 from within All Souls Church, Langham Place, after a neighbouring charity approached us to help with outreach to sex workers in Westminster. A small volunteer team assembled that had a heart for outreach, in particular reaching people who had been trafficked, and the Tamar team was born.

The name ‘Tamar’

Tamar is a Biblical name. There are two stories in the bible of women called Tamar who were both badly mistreated by men and society. There are a number of other references to women who were involved in sex work throughout the Bible, and Jesus went out of his way to show them care and value which was significantly countercultural at that time.

Where we are now

In September 2018 we celebrated our fifth birthday. During these first five years we have connected with over 1200 individuals working in the sex industry in Westminster.
Individuals we have supported over the years know that the team give their time for free, and therefore see us as friends who choose to spend time with them.

Tamar would like to this page to bust the 7 myths of sex work – 1 post per day across the 7 days

Monday – Myth 1: “They chose it”

1 in 2 enter prostitution before they turn 18. You may not see minors working on the streets but exploitation is still going on behind closed doors. That’s why Tamar’s volunteer team outreach to brothels to befriend women working in prostitution in London, so we can best support each person – emotionally and practically.
Stat source: Statistics on prostitution in London and around the UK, Toynbee Hall

Tuesday – Myth 2 “They know they can get help from the Police”

In London, 96% of women in prostitution are migrants. Many don’t know what their rights are or that they can access help if they are trafficked. At Tamar we connect each woman we meet to the help they need – whether it’s a healthcare appointment or English lessons. Stat source: Association of Chief Police Officers

Wednesday – Myth 3 – “It doesn’t happen in my neighbourhood”

There are 32,000 sex workers in London. Even if you don’t see women working on the streets, there are thousands of flats and massage parlours offering sexual services with Westminster being the number one UK hotspot. Stat source: Office for National Statistics

Thursday – Myth 4 – “Some stories have a ‘Pretty Woman’ ending.”

At Tamar, we’ve met over 1400 women working in prostitution whose lives are rarely full of glamorous shopping trips and dining out. Most women serve 20-30 clients a day, most days of the week. This survivor’s story gives some insight into what a life in prostitution is like.  Stat source: UK Police

Friday – Myth 5 – “Violence doesn’t happen where sex work is legal”

In Amsterdam, 18 years after legalisation of the sex trade, 93% of women in prostitution face violence. In London, Tamar exist to connect each person we meet to the help they need, across local services. Stat source: NL Times

Saturday – Myth 6 –  “It only affects women”

4% of people trafficked for sexual exploitation are male. Men and women need to stand together to help all those who are trafficked and role model healthy relationships.
Stat source: Eurostat – European Commission

Sunday – Myth 7: “Slavery is a thing of the past”

Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime, where more trafficking survivors are reported each year. The time to act is now, to support the most vulnerable people in our city. Stat source: US Department of Defense and UK Home Office tamarwestminster.org

The Rise Project – A Children’s Society Initiative – 1 April 2019

Hou's story - The Rise Project


The Rise Project is a Pan-London specialist service for boys and young men who have been trafficked to the UK, or are at risk of being trafficked between the ages of 11 to 17.

  • The service provides holistic support through a wraparound service offering:
  • Intensive one-to-one support
  • Fortnightly boys’ group for young people to improve their emotional and mental wellbeing community.
  • In-house therapist to work with the young people who are ready to engage in one-to-one therapy.

The project also researches the issues faced by boys and young men trafficked to the UK and the barriers they have to receiving the correct support.

Hou’s Story

When Hou was just 13, his parents were taken away by the Chinese authorities. They were being persecuted for their faith, and sensing they were in danger had sent Hou to live with a family friend.

Hou was told that his parents had been killed and their organs harvested. Fearing for Hou’s life, the family friend arranged Hou’s escape from China and sent him to the UK.

Once Hou arrived in the UK, he was handed to a British couple who immediately began abusing him. They kept him prisoner for many months, not allowing him to leave the house or go to school, instead forcing him to do household chores and physically assaulting him. If he missed a spot while cleaning Hou would be beaten, and soon the man began sexually abusing Hou.

One day Hou was alone in the house and tried to open the front door. To his surprise it was unlocked, ‘I felt so scared staying there. I had no choice other than to run’. Hou escaped and found his way onto a train to London. It was the only place he had ever heard of in the UK.

At the age of 14 Hou was sleeping rough in London. He was recruited by a gang who forced him to sell flowers in exchange for a spot on the floor of a room crowded with older men. He stayed there for some time, and never met another child.

Eventually, Hou escaped the gang and left London. He began working in kitchens up and down the country.

“No one asked my age” said Hou, “They just wanted me to work. One person, they found out and just told me to pretend I was an adult as being a child was a problem for them”.

Hou continued to work under the radar, unaware of his rights as a child. At the age of 19 he fathered a son, and returned to London desperate to find work. He was tracked down by his old gangmaster Li, who forced him into committing fraud for the gang. They took Hou to different locations and constantly monitored him. Hou was regularly beaten, and was told his life would be in danger if he ever went to the police.

“When I think about that time, even now I feel very scared” said Hou, “It was a very hard time. I felt I had no choices”.

One day while working for the gang, Hou was arrested and sent to prison for a lengthy sentence. After serving half of his time, Hou was told he would be moved to an immigration detention centre, and stay there indefinitely.

Hou spent over two years in detention facing deportation to China, where he feared he would be killed. Immigration staff had taken away his phone so he lost contact with his son, and after months of limbo, long term detention took its toll. Hou’s mental health worsened and he gave up hope. He began a hunger strike in an attempt to end his life.

“I thought my life was over, that dying in China or in detention were just the same. There was no freedom and without freedom there was no life. I just gave up” said Hou. ‘When I was really close to dying, a charity [at the prison] helped me to see my life was not yet over, and to focus on living in the hope of seeing my son again one day.”

Hou decided to end his hunger strike. Sadly, he suffered massive health complications after so long without food. He needed a zimmer frame to walk, and still struggled with depression. For the first time, Hou started talking about his trafficking history, and was then immediately referred to The Children’s Society and a worker named Jacob.

“When [my The Children’s Society worker] visited me for the first time, he gave me hope again. He told me about trafficking and helped me believe there was a chance I could be released. It was so hard to believe after so long. Until then, no one visiting me gave me any hope, it was always bad news about my case being difficult, but with him it was different.”

Hou’s solicitor helped him appeal his deportation order and apply for asylum, and after two years of waiting Hou won his case and was finally released from detention.

Jacob and Hou met regularly for one-to-one sessions, so Hou could start recovering from the trauma he had experienced.

“He became the first person I ever told everything to, even to this day” said Hou, “he listened to me and accepted me where no one else ever has”.

Jacob supported Hou to access emergency accommodation and the medical treatment he desperately needed. With Jacob’s help Hou was awarded refugee status and managed to secure long term accommodation. In total they worked together for fifteen months.

“Everyone needs a home and a future. I never had a home in 10 years of my life, nowhere that was safe and mine. But now I do, for the first time.”

Hou is now 24 and sees his son on a regular basis. He recently began walking unaided for the first time in two years.


Love146 – 25 March 2019

Love146 logo

Working to prevent child trafficking and exploitation, care for survivors and empower a growing movement.

Love146 is an international human rights organisation working to end child trafficking through prevention education and survivor care. We fill in the gaps left by other organisations. That means we work with young people trafficked into the UK from other countries, and we give them the best support we can – the same care that we’d want our own children to receive.

The number of human trafficking victims in the UK is in the tens of thousands, with one-third of that number being children. Because we’ve been working with and listening to survivors for a long time, we know that the needs of these trafficked children are complex. We meet them with a framework of specialist support, vigilant safeguards and genuine care.

Our safety plan is the foundation of our Survivor Care in the UK. It was crafted by our Director of Care, Lynne Chitty, born out of her 30 years of experience keeping children safe. It doesn’t focus on keeping young people in, but on keeping everyone else out and on breaking the strong connection between the survivor and their trafficker. Without severing this bond, young people are likely to go missing from care in the first 24 hours. In many conventional, group home or hostel settings, up to 60% of young people have been lost in this way.

Our carers, social workers and support workers are trained to handle the complex needs of trafficked young people, and Love146 UK has not lost a single young person yet.

We have had the honour of being present at birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. We have mourned with young mothers as they buried a child and we have wrapped an arm around young people devastated by a negative asylum appeal. We have walked former clients down the aisle and been their birthing partners.

Love146 journeys with survivors for as long as it takes. We care like family. And family sticks around for the long haul.

See this really inspiring short film on the Love146 Vimeo Page – A UK Survivor Story.





Kalayaan Charity of the Week – 18 March 2019

Kalayaan logo: Justice for migrant domestic workers
Kalayaan: Justice for migrant domestic workers

Behind Closed Doors – The hidden lives of Migrant Domestic Workers

Since 1987, Kalayaan has worked with and supported migrant domestic in the UK, aiming to improve their quality of life.

Migrant domestic workers (MDWs) are foreign nationals who have come to the UK accompanying their wealthy employers to work in their private household, typically as house-keepers, cooks, nannies, carers, or chauffeurs. They enter the UK on an Overseas Domestic Worker visa.

MDWs are particularly vulnerable to abuse of their human rights and to labour exploitation, in some cases amounting to slavery, for several reasons: they are isolated within their employer’s private house, hidden from any of the usual oversight mechanisms for workers, and often have little or no knowledge of the English language. They rely on their employer for their income, their accommodation and their immigration status in the UK, as well as for any information about their rights in the UK. MDWs are restricted from accessing public funds.

When a new service user registers at Kalayaan, their treatment and working conditions are assessed in order to identify indicators of trafficking and modern slavery.

Clients report situations of physical abuse such as employers hitting them, kicking them, spitting in their face, grabbing them by their clothes, slapping them and pushing them.

Domestic workers caring for children often report of being kicked and hit by them, even under the eyes of their parents, who don’t reprimand them.

Forms of psychological abuse described by our clients included shouting and insults such as ‘useless’ or ‘idiot’, and threats to be thrown out or deported. Workers often describe these humiliations as ‘being treated like an animal’.

The isolated nature of their work within their employers’ private houses makes domestic workers particularly vulnerable to the risk of sexual abuse. Lack of privacy is another recurrent problem for MDWs, and often linked to sexual abuse. The majority live in the employer’s household and have no private space to which they can retire.

Many MDWs don’t have their own room, and sleep in public areas such as the kitchen, the living-room or the children’s bedroom. Sleeping in a public area means that they have no protection against any unwanted attention. In addition, it means that sleep is interrupted by people entering the room for other purposes, or by children waking up. Many of the workers told us that they are expected to wake up in the middle of the night to attend to any needs of the members of the household, like making hot drinks, bringing water, etc. One worker reported being called by the employer in the middle of the night just to scratch his feet.

Many MDWs don’t even have a proper bed and have to sleep on cold floors, with serious consequences for their health.
In many cases the isolation of living and working within the private household becomes extreme and MDWs are not allowed to go out except when accompanying the employer.

Many of the exploitative situations suffered by MDWs, such as unreasonably long working hours and salaries well below the National Minimum Wage, are linked to the fact that domestic work is often not perceived as ‘real work’.

T’s story

T. came to the UK with a family for whom she had been working in an African country for the previous year. They had just had a baby girl and she was to look after her. The employers had to come to the UK for work, and made all the arrangements and paperwork for her visa. They did not tell her much about coming to the UK, only that she was to look after their child and she’d be paid £500/month.

They had her passport while travelling and through immigration control. They kept it when they arrived to the house. T. described the following working conditions: working from 5am till after 10pm, then during the night she had to give the bottle to the baby a few times. She slept on a mattress on the floor in the box room, and she had a baby monitor, so she had to wake up and tend to the baby if she cried.

She cooked dinner for the family but she was not allowed to eat it, she’d have to eat what was left in the fridge from previous meals, and only if there were no leftovers would she be allowed to eat the fresh food. She was told to eat in her bedroom. The food she was given was not enough, and the female employer would complain that she ate too much, so she’d become too upset to eat anyway.

She did not have any day off. She was paid £150/month. She was never allowed to go out alone: if she needed to buy something personal, she had to ask her female employer. She found this quite embarrassing and humiliating. The employer would then buy what she had asked, and deducted the cost from T.’s £150/month salary.

She was not allowed a mobile phone so when she wanted to speak to her three children back in Africa she had to ask to use the family phone and the employer would charge her for the phone call. She was only allowed to make one phone call every fortnight.

She said that at one point they told her she could not stay in the house unmarried, and they invited a man to the house and introduced him to her, saying she had to marry him. She refused, but they said in any case she had to be with him, and he started to come to see her at night and she was forced to have sex with him. They said if she refused they’d cancel her visa and send her back to Africa.

After some months she started to feel very sick. She had to continue her normal work routine for the family, even if she was very sick and weak. Her conditions worsened, but they did not want to take her to hospital: the female employer gave her Paracetamol and charged her for it. Eventually she persuaded the employer to take her to the hospital, because her conditions were getting worse. She found out that she was HIV positive. She discovered that the man who had been abusing her was HIV positive, and was responsible for the contagion.

After she was diagnosed, the employers told her she had to go. She asked to be put in touch with the police for help, as she did not know where to go, but they told her that if she went to the police they would kill her. She was thrown out one evening. T. had nowhere to go and slept on a bench at a bus station.

After two days she met someone from her country, who introduced her to other members of the community. She stayed with these people until someone took her to a church and eventually she was told about Kalayaan.

After an assessment, Kalayaan identified her as a victim of modern slavery and referred her into the NRM. T. started receiving treatment and counselling. She was given a safe place to stay and started making friends with other women in the safe house. She was recognised as a victim of trafficking for domestic slavery and has now been granted leave to remain in the UK. She continues to her treatment and her conditions have improved.

A migrant domestic worker's bed - photo by Kaalayan
A migrant domestic worker’s bed – photo by Kaalayan

D’s story

“I couldn’t stand the shouting and hitting. After 6 months, I ran away”
D. had worked for her employers abroad for two years when they decided to move to the UK and brought D. with them as their housekeeper. She was made to work extremely long hours and had no private space to escape from work. She had to sleep on the stone-cold floor of their kitchen. She was frequently shouted at and beaten for the smallest mistakes or sometimes for no reason at all. D. was fed so little that her eyesight started to fail. D. asked for her salary but the employers always made excuses – they were paying off her travel or they couldn’t afford it this month.

After six months in the UK, D. could no longer stand the abuse and was so desperate that she fled. She had no idea what her immigration status was, as her employer had always kept her passport from her. D. left the house and put her total trust in the first person she met who could speak her language, as she spoke no English at this time. She was taken in by a family who said they would house her in return for her work. Homeless and destitute, D. agreed but she ended up being further exploited by this family and abused both physically and sexually.

For the following five years D. worked for a number of different employers but the situation was always the same: they knew that she had no visa and no other choices, and used her vulnerability to exploit her. In between periods of employment she would be forced to sleep rough in parks. Eventually someone from her own country told her about Kalayaan. D. has been referred into the NRM and is now receiving support to recover.


How Kalayaan helps

Kalayaan is a First Responder, which means that we can identify and refer victims of trafficking and modern slavery into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the Government’s system for recognising and supporting victims.
Kalayaan free services include:
• Identification and referrals of victims of trafficking for domestic servitude into the NRM.
• Legal advice on immigration and employment rights
• Access to legal representation
• Help accessing emergency accommodation
• Help to register with a GP or to access psychological support and counselling
• Help with writing letters, completing forms and writing CVs
• English classes, including ‘Life in the UK’ preparation classes for students wanting to apply for settlement.

How you can help

In order to continue to provide its services, Kalayaan relies of Trusts, Foundations and the generosity of the public.

If you want to donate, please send us a cheque made payable to Kalayaan or use the donate button on our website:  www.kalayaan.org.uk

For further inquiries please contact us:

Kalayaan, 13 Hippodrome Place, London W11 4SF

Email: info@nullkalayaan.org.uk      Tel: 020 7243 2942

Ella’s Home Charity of the Week – 11 March 2019

Ellas Home Logo

Ella’s story – how we started – ellas-home.co.uk/

It was in Bangkok, Thailand, in an old run down hotel primarily used as a brothel, that I first met “Ella.”* From a country on the other side of the world to Thailand, Ella had been exploited through prostitution for a number of years. Ella is an intelligent young woman and with the right opportunities, could do anything she put her mind to. Instead, there she was selling her body to men who passed through the city. This was the only life she had known since her teenage years.

Around Christmas 2012, I was surprised to hear from Ella that she was in London. She contacted me and asked if I could take her to hospital as she said she wasn’t well. That evening, a friend and I met Ella at a tube station. We learned that Ella had been living and working in a brothel close by. To this day the details of how she got there remain hazy as she said she didn’t want to get anyone in trouble by saying anything. We discovered though, that she had no intention of returning to the brothel, nor was she mentally or physically in any fit state to do so.

Our first approach was to get Ella into a shelter for women who had been trafficked. She was initially accepted into a safe house outside of London. However, within just a few days they released her because she refused to speak. Without evidence of her being exploited or trafficked, the safe house was unable to complete the necessary paperwork and consequently would not receive funding for her to stay.

Several tense days passed and we still had not found a suitable place for Ella to stay, so I took her to an A&E at a local hospital. After a 10-hour wait, Ella was hospitalised for further observation. Yet, just 3 days later, a social worker from the hospital telephoned to say they were going to discharge her that day. I expressed my concern for Ella’s health and highlighted that she had been in a vulnerable and horrible situation here in London. I also explained there appeared to be no organisation able to offer her shelter. The hospital staff’s response was abrupt; if there was nowhere else, could she go back to the brothel? As an afterthought she added, “If it isn’t an abusive situation.”

In the days and weeks that followed efforts to keep Ella in safe and appropriate places continued, but there was nowhere long-term and nowhere that would address her complex needs. It was a stressful time during which her health was in rapid decline. How could it be so difficult to find help for the most vulnerable here in London?

Eventually, after many more hurdles it was recognised that Ella needed urgent medical attention and she was hospitalised. This time a different hospital took her in and took great care of her.

The change in Ella after a short time in the hospital was profound and her health vastly improved. As Ella’s stay at that hospital drew to a close the staff there assured me they didn’t want to put her out on the street but they simply didn’t know of any alternatives.

Thankfully, Ella got in touch with a family member whom she hadn’t seen in several years. She decided to go and meet them in the country where they live. It seemed like a good plan and we made the arrangements for her to go there. I hoped that Ella would find a safe place to live, with people around her who would treat her with kindness.

After a few weeks with these family members, I received word from Ella that she had returned to Thailand. It both grieved and frustrated me that more couldn’t be done for her. If there had been some way and somewhere Ella could have received sustained rehabilitative care she may have found her way out of years of exploitation rather than be lured back to a brothel in Bangkok.

After everything Ella experienced in London, it’s clear that there is a need for a home where those who escape from a life of exploitation will be welcome.  Ella and I remain in regular contact.  I’ve told her about the new women’s safe house, which we’ve affectionately named Ella’s Home and that she was the inspiration.

* Ella is the nickname that was given to this young woman during her difficult time in London to protect her identity then and now. This account of Ella’s experience in London has been written by Emily, co-founder of Ella’s Home.


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