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Her family’s business was trafficking. But she broke free.

Halimot was 15 when she came to England. She says her Aunt Miriam dressed her up “really smart” — in an elegant outfit and sunglasses to hide her eyes.

Because, Aunt Miriam explained, “if they see your eyes, they’ll see your fear.”

Before they headed to the airport, Halimot grabbed the phone number she’d written on a piece of paper. “I put the number inside a tissue — I wrapped it. And I put it in plastic, and then I put it [under my shirt], so it wouldn’t get wet.”

When they got to London, Aunt Miriam and Halimot made their way to King’s Cross, a massive, grimy, old train station. Aunt Miriam got on the phone and started yapping away, as she often would. And that’s when Halimot did it. She ran as fast as she could. She weaved her way through the thick stream of commuters, past the beggars, and bolted out of the building, into the streets of London.

She kept running, as fast as her small legs could carry her.

It’s been 15 years since Halimot ran out of that train station. She’s almost 30 now, but there’s still a childlike quality about her. She has the body of a small ballerina, and she loves all that glitters. Glittery slippers, sparkly little earrings.

Halimot doesn’t remember much about where she’s from. Somewhere in Nigeria. She knows she had a good childhood there. “I’m from [a] middle-class family, everything was fine.” And she knows, when she was 10, her luck changed. Her dad died. The day he died, an auntie came to pick her up at school.

“Miriam.”

Miriam was a relative who lived in Italy. The family decided Miriam would take Halimot, and make sure she went to a great school. So, Halimot left her mother and siblings and was off to Europe. In Italy, they checked into a hotel.

“As soon as we got to the hotel, she made a phone call for people to know we’d arrived. People started coming. I was in the room and she gave the other two males money, and they were having an argument, about the money.” It was then that Halimot knew something was wrong.

“I tried to open the door, just to see what was going on, and she asked me to go back inside the room. So, I went back.”

Here’s what Halimot quickly discovered: There was no home in Italy. There was no school.

What there was, was about $50,000. That’s what Halimot thinks she was sold into prostitution for. When Halimot said no, Aunt Miriam gave her a beating. Because this was what Aunt Miriam did: She was a trafficker.

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[Photo Credit: Andrea Crossan/PRI]

 

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