Everywhere. Something new. My eyes are opened and re-opened again.
Women on the streets carrying enormous loads of items for sale on their heads. Young boys carrying heavy buckets of bread.
I went for a run on the beach and a boy started to run alongside me. He only began talking once I said something to him. He spoke little English. He came from Guinea. He wants to learn English. He sleeps under the bush where I started my run. He kindly helped me find public transportation back to my home as it was getting dark.
In my interviews with the counselors here at the Center for Victims of Torture I’ve come to learn that likely all of these individuals have been trafficked. Either voluntarily or involuntarily they left their home up-country or in a neighboring country to follow false promises of education, skills training… a better life in the city. And here they are now, exploited or homeless having run away from the person who brought them here.
Those exploited may work day and night for their trafficker handing over all money in exchange, perhaps, for a place to sleep.
Those who run, without education or skills, often end up on the streets, committing small crimes to survive, or giving sex in exchange for money, food or a place to sleep. Re-trafficking is not uncommon.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. An iceberg of poverty, war, torture, trauma… “So many of my brothers suffer” one counselor told me in an interview.
Freetown. How ironic.