Sarah* was two years old when her father passed away and her mother was left to raise seven children alone. Despite her difficult situation, she was able to finish school and completed one year of nurse’s training. Sarah’s stepfather suggested that she continue her nurse’s training in Europe, and told her about an African woman he knew who was looking for girls that could come and work at her shops.
That is where Sarah’s horrific journey began… Together with ten other girls, she was put in a house surrounded by a big fence. The girls had no contact with anyone for several days. Sarah felt that something was wrong and wanted to leave, but the woman in charge told her that she couldn’t. After some weeks, the girls were awakened in the middle of the night and brought to a shrine. They had to swear that they wouldn’t talk about this with their friends or the police, and that they would do whatever the woman said.
The long journey to Europe was a nightmare. They travelled by bus and train, but mostly by truck. They crossed many borders and then were kept somewhere in Libya for several weeks. Terrible things happened along the way, and Sarah became pregnant.
The next part of the journey brought her to the sea where they had to cross by boat. After three days and nights on the open sea with no food and water, the girls arrived on the island of Malta. They came to a camp where they had to stay for one year; no one was allowed out. One night, Sarah miscarried her baby and lay in her blood on the floor until the next morning. When she was found, they put her into the hospital immediately. Sarah thought that maybe her nightmare was over when she received permission to leave the camp upon being released from the hospital.
Instead, that was the day Sarah met her Madam, a female pimp. She was brutal. She told Sarah that she owed €40,000 to be shared with Sarah’s stepfather for his “help”. It was Sarah’s responsibility to earn this money and pay it back. Sarah found out later that her stepfather simply got up and left on the day that he got a large sum of money from the Madam.
Then Sarah was brought into Europe to work in prostitution for the Madam. She also began a German class and was getting very good grades, but she was forced to live in an overcrowded apartment with five rooms where all the other tenants were refugee men. It was during this time that Heart Factory came in contact with Sarah.
The Heart Factory referred her to a governmental organization that cares for victims of trafficking. With their help, Sarah is now being well cared for and lives in an integration house. Through the help of Heart Factory, she now has a small cleaning job and continues to take German classes. She wants to continue with her nurse’s training.
At the Heart Factory, we have come to know Sarah as a forthright and strong person who speaks the truth. She sees the injustice in her life and is troubled by the fact that as an asylum seeker, she is only allowed to work in prostitution even though there are many other jobs in Austria. She is also angry that so many Madams go to Nigerian churches in Vienna. She doesn’t understand how someone can sing praise songs to the Lord one minute and the next minute sell someone for their own benefit.
Sarah’s application for refugee status was denied recently. We pray that her repeal will be accepted. For those of us at the Heart Factory, it is a privilege to know people like Sarah, and we are happy that we can come alongside her during her time of need.
-Written by a worker in Austria
*not her real name