A dream derailed

Ben, the youngest of five siblings, found himself burdened with responsibility early in life following the death of his parents. Living in his family’s homestead in Lesotho with his eldest brother and sister, he had to drop out of high school to care for his ailing mother, relying on odd jobs to support his dwindling family finances. A skilled soccer player, Ben dreamed of a life beyond his immediate struggles, a dream that seemed within reach when a recruiter approached him with a life-changing offer.

During a local soccer game, a Nigerian national recognized Ben’s talent and presented him with an opportunity that seemed too good to refuse. He promised Ben a lucrative soccer career in Dubai, with a salary of M20,000 (approx. $1,058) per month. Eager to provide for himself and his family, Ben accepted the offer. He prepared his documents and, funded by the recruiter, set off for Dubai with high hopes for the future. But he wasn’t wanted for his soccer skills; the plan included misusing and tarnishing Ben’s identity.

Misled, far from home

Upon arrival in Dubai, Ben’s excitement quickly turned to horror. He was taken to a house where he met other South African men who revealed similar promises had also duped them. Instead of playing soccer, they were coerced into a criminal scheme involving opening bank accounts and taking out loans under false pretenses. Isolated and controlled, Ben spent months trapped in a tiny flat with minimal food and water, carrying out financial frauds for his captors.

Escape

After enduring five months of exploitation, Ben’s desperation grew. A breakthrough came when he was coerced into posing as a husband to rent apartments. At one viewing, he managed to communicate his plight to a sympathetic landlord, who directed him to the nearest police station. Using this information, Ben threatened his captors, forcing them to concede to his release in exchange for silence. They paid him 4000 Dirhams, which he used to secure his passage back to Lesotho.

Justice and recovery

Back home, Ben wasted no time in seeking justice. He reported his recruiter to the local authorities, leading to an arrest and a court case. Though scarred by his ordeal, Ben received critical support from local charities, which provided him with food, toiletries, psychosocial support, and psychotherapy, helping him to start healing from the traumatic experience.

Ben’s story is a stark reminder of the destructive reach of human trafficking and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals under the guise of opportunity. These survivors simply want to make an honest living to care for themselves and their families.

As advocates for human trafficking survivors, prevention is a vital tool in our belt! Survivors and those in vulnerable positions need the training we provide to find gainful employment where they are treated with dignity and respect. Will you partner with us to make this a reality?

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