Abbo*, a Ugandan single mother of a 4-year-old girl, living in Kampala, used to work selling clothes and fruit juices in the streets. However, she couldn’t make enough money to meet the basic needs of herself and her daughter. Abbo had a friend who went abroad and told her she knew someone that could offer her a job in Thailand. The friend introduced Abbo to the recruiter, who convinced her he had a job in Thailand good for her. Poor, vulnerable and deceived by the prospects of this new job, Abbo accepted it.
Once at the airport in Bangkok, the man came to pick Abbo up. He brought her to a building where she shared a room with another four people. Two days later, at night, the man asked Abbo to dress up and took her to the bar. At first, she thought it was just to have some drinks until the recruiter told her to go to the hotel with a man. Abbo left with the man alone. At the hotel, the man approached her and asked her to take her clothes off. She refused and asked him what was going on. The man explained to her that she had been hired as a sex worker. She started crying and opened to the man about her current condition. He paid her and let her go back.
The next day, she found out that her passport and return ticket were taken away. The recruiter told her that she would have to pay back the passport by either working for him as a prostitute or paying him USD 8,000 for her freedom. He threatened her by saying the police would not take her side if she complained. Abbo refused to work as a sex worker, and in return, she was denied food for a few days. After a week, she had no choice but to accept being sexually exploited in order to be able to eat and pay off the debt for her freedom. The sexual exploitation lasted for one month.
One day Abbo met a man who became her friend. She shared her story and the man paid USD 5,000 to the recruiter to release her. The recruiter told him that her debt was still pending because the money didn’t come from her. At that moment, she decided to go to the police with the help of this man. When the police entered the building, the recruiter had already run away. She spent two days in the immigration office. After being interviewed about her journey, she was referred to a shelter as a victim of human trafficking. She asked for return and reintegration assistance in Uganda. The IOM office reached out to the Global Assistance Fund, which was able to assist her with voluntary return and help her set up a juice and grocery shop in Kampala.
*Name modified for the purpose of anonymity.