Organ trafficking survivor starts to rebuild life supported by Justice and Care

May 10, 2023

A Justice and Care Victim Navigator has shared how she is helping a trafficking survivor begin to rebuild his life after he was targeted by a Nigerian politician in an organ harvesting plot.

A man, 21, who grew up in poverty in a remote village in Nigeria, was left ‘scared and in a state of shock’ after he was brought to London in a conspiracy to take his kidney. His traffickers have been jailed but he is still unable to return home to Nigeria as he worries for his safety and may never see his family again.

The former Lagos street trader is being assisted in his recovery and hopes to finish school and open a business.

Victim Navigators are specialist workers embedded in police forces, who bridge the gap between people who have been trafficked and the criminal justice system.

One of our Victim Navigators was called by police to support the victim around a week after he walked into a police station crying and asking someone to help him.

He had spent around 10 days in foster care after initially telling police he was 15 – as he thought the only way to get help was to say he was a child, and he wasn’t exactly sure how old he was.

The Victim Navigator said: ‘I met him when his age became known, he was still very scared and incredibly confused. He didn’t know what was going on, where he was going or what the future held.

‘I think the enormity of what could have happened, that he could have lost one of his organs, had hit him. And he was relieved that he’d managed to escape that.’

As police launched an investigation, our Navigator spent the weekend with the survivor supporting him and trying to take his mind off the horrific situation he had been forced into.

‘My job is really about communicating with survivors’, she said. ‘You want to try and explain what the process is and what the next steps are going to be.

‘Also, we were just generally chatting, he and I hit it off quickly. The weekend I met him, it was the British Grand Prix, the World Cup and Wimbledon, so we spent a lot of time watching sport as he’s a huge fan.

‘After that, he was safeguarded because of the nature of the investigation and the defendants involved. He may potentially never see his family again. He misses them hugely.’

Alongside other support, Victim Navigators help empower survivors to navigate services including counselling, training and healthcare, provide police with tactical advice, and share best practices for systemic change. Estimates suggest 44% of survivors without a Navigator engage with police compared to 92% survivors with a Navigator.

While they often provide day-to-day support, safeguarding issues meant the Navigator involved in this case could only see the survivor about once a month. But she was still able to build a trusting relationship that helped him before he gave evidence in the trial.

In a powerful victim impact statement, the survivor told the court in London ‘my body is not for sale’ and revealed that he worried ‘they could arrest me or kill me in Nigeria’.

The Victim Navigator said: ‘In this case, and in every case that we work on, we are asking people to be incredibly brave, to stand and give evidence against their traffickers. 

‘It’s such a difficult thing to do and it’s only right that we provide wraparound care for them so they’re in the best place possible.

‘He gave evidence for the best part of three-and-a-half days, so he found it difficult. He’s grateful the jury believed him and was over the moon when the news came through that they’d been convicted.’

Senior Nigerian politician, Ike Ekweremadu, 60, his wife, Beatrice, 56, and Dr Obinna Obeta, 51, have been jailed following the first organ trafficking conviction under the Modern Slavery Act.

The survivor is now focusing on moving forward with his life and ‘desperately wants’ to finish his education after being forced to leave school in Nigeria when he was 10.

‘He’s a lovely person, he’s good fun and quite a deep lad who is very religious’, the Victim Navigator said. ‘His aim is to start a business so he can earn money, and send it back to his family.’

‘Life has had to stand still for him, as it does with a lot of our victims with court cases. But he’s certainly in a much better place now than he was a year ago.’