SAFE ON THE ROAD

Ivan* had to take up two jobs to provide for his wife and two sons: growing and selling vegetables during the day and driving a borrowed taxi by night. In search of a well-paid job, he was advised by one of his taxi passengers that in a nearby village they were recruiting a construction brigade to work in the suburbs of Moscow. A recruiter promised Ivan a monthly salary of USD 400–700. Six days later, Ivan and five other men left on a train to Moscow. The recruiter collected their passports and money for “safety reasons”.

At the construction site, Ivan was shown the place where he had to sleep — a bunk bed in barracks with eight other men. The barracks were humid and stunk of mould. The men had to work from six in the morning and until very late in the evening. They worked without breaks or even a minute of rest with guards constantly watching over them. Leaving the site or talking about health issues was prohibited.

As the work on the construction site was almost complete, the guards and foreman became more apprehensive and aggressive and would beat up the workers even over minor misunderstandings. The foreman shouted that he bought Ivan for USD 400 and that now Ivan owed him money. Fearing for his life, Ivan talked to his friend and they decided to escape before the owner sold them to someone else. One night they managed to slip away. After walking all the way to Moscow, they caught a train back to Ukraine.

Upon returning home, Ivan was suffering from severe back and kidney problems. He could no longer work and had no money for medical treatment. This led to uneasy situations with his family. Ivan felt devastated, helpless and angry.

One day, Ivan’s son brought an NGO leaflet about human trafficking and victim assistance home from school. Initially, Ivan hesitated, not believing in the possibility of receiving support and assistance, thinking that it was yet another trap. Having seemingly no other options, he decided to contact the NGO.

As a first step, Ivan received medical and psychological assistance. Later, the NGO supported him with vocational training and help in finding a new job at a warehouse. Ivan felt ready to start his own business and build plans for the future. He took part in the IOM’s micro-enterprise development training, where he developed a business plan that was subsequently supported with a micro-grant. Ivan registered himself as an entrepreneur and started providing professional taxi services. After mastering the management aspects, book keeping and earning a stable income, Ivan decided to expand his business and hire additional staff. Building upon the success of his taxi business, he opened a small grocery shop. Additionally, Ivan’s youngest son had a chance to go to a sea resort, taking part in the IOM-supported summer camp for children of trafficking survivors.

Today, Ivan is a successful entrepreneur. His wife works as an accountant in what is now a family business with two hired employees, a small but meaningful measure of support to the community.

*The name has been changed to protect privacy

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