Brave asylum seeker who was sold into slavery overseas before being saved by Sheffield charity opens up on his ordeal

An asylum seeker who survived torture and modern-day slavery has bravely told his story, as he praises the Yorkshire charity which saved him.

Mohammed was sold into slavery in Libya, but has now been resettled in northern England (picture posed by model)

Mohammed, whose last name cannot be used, was sold into slavery in Libya after getting caught in civilian protests in his home country of Sudan in 2013.

Then aged 16, Mohammed moved from his parents' village to the country's capital, Khartoum, in search of work, finding himself propelled into an uprising against the 24-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir.

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In September of that year, more than 50 people were shot and killed by security guards during a protest which Mohammed attended.

Mohammed was sold into slavery in Libya, but has now been resettled in northern England (picture posed by model)

He was subsequently captured, tortured and forced to spy on the rebels, before he fled the country and was sold into slavery in Libya.

Now resettled in an undisclosed city in North England through the Sheffield City Hearts charity, 30-year-old Mohammed opened up in an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post on the traumatic chain of events that unfolded, as today (Sunday) marks UK Anti Slavery Day.

"I witnessed young men and women being shot because they were asking for a better life," he said.

Mohammed had gone to the protest because he felt it "was the right thing to do", not knowing the life-changing course of events which would follow, ultimately leading to him spending time in a refugee camp in France before claiming asylum in England last year.

Sheffield charity City Hearts support and rehouse victims of trafficking and exploitation

"Security with no uniform arrested me and took me away in a small cart with many others. We were forced to lay facing the floor and they began to beat us with their boots and sticks.

"They took us to an unknown location, where they beat us further. They locked us in a small room. It was clear they didn't care whether we lived or died.

"I was taken, interrogated, beaten, abused physically and mentally. They took all of my clothes and threatened to kill me. They said, 'you will never have the rights you protested for because you are black'."

Abused for weeks, Mohammed was forced to falsely confess to being a rebel, and told to spy on the opposition and bring them information.

Ed Newton, CEO of Sheffield charity City Hearts

"I was terrified," he continued. "I didn't have any money, they had taken everything from me.

"I couldn't go back to my parents as I didn't want them to come looking for me. I went to my auntie instead, where my cousin gave me money so I could travel to safety."

He spent five days travelling in a car to Libya with other refugees, where they were dropped off in a desert and imprisoned in a compound, subjected to further beatings.

He was sold to slavery to a nearby, and for two years worked everyday for 12 hours in fields with no pay.

"They said, 'you're going to work for us to pay us back – if you try to escape, we will kill you'."

Fleeing the estate after seeking refuge from a passer-by, Mohammed was taken in by a Sudanese family who helped him find work as a labourer for two months.

But after contacting his family for the first time since fleeing Sudan, he discovered that the security officials who had subjected him to torture had gone looking for him at his parents' home and threatening them.

"This is when I knew I could never go home," he added.

"I found someone who said they would take me to Europe. I used the money I had earned from two months working and some from my cousin. He took me via a small boat with around 120 other people to between France and Italy. From there, we walked into France, then took a train to Paris."

In 2016, Mohammed stayed in a refugee camp with 200 people after taking a train to Paris, sleeping on the streets for more than a month.

After he was told to leave, he went to Germany, but was soon back in France after officials sent him back.

"I had nowhere to live, nowhere to sleep, nothing," he said.

"In June 2019, I snuck onto a bus from France to England. I got off when we stopped at a petrol station and went into the shop, asking them to call the police, who arrived and took me to the nearest station. From there, I explained what had happened to me and asked for asylum."

Mohammed has been rehoused by Sheffield-based City Hearts, which has helped 3,000 people since it was founded by Jenny Gilpin in 2005 after discovering she was a child conceived by gang rape.

The charity has since expanded to include safe houses in Leeds, Liverpool, Sunderland and Aberdeen, where vulnerable victims of exploitation, forced labour and sex trafficking are housed and supported so they may be reintegrated into the community.

It is estimated that around 40m people are victims of slavery globally, while here in the UK, there are approximately 140,000 with forms of exploitation ranging from forced labour, sexual exploitation and county lines drug dealing.

In a move of solidarity with victims this weekend, seven police forces in the North - including Yorkshire's four police forces - vowed to ensure that none of the materials or services their staff used had involved exploitation or forced labour.

Ed Newton, CEO of City hearts, said: "“Trafficked survivors have typically been victims of sexual slavery or forced labour.

"Women and men, often with families, all over the UK who have been victims of trafficking and manage to get away from their captors and are brought to us with only the clothes they stand up in by the police or social services.”

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Thank you

James Mitchinson (Editor)