was born into a Sikh family in India. My parents decided to convert to Christianity even though people in our village were being persecuted for having different religious beliefs.
When things got really bad, my dad decided that I would need to leave the country for my safety. Through the church, he made arrangements for me to go to Cyprus. Reluctantly I left India for Cyprus and everything seemed fine in the beginning.
While in Cyprus, I met a man from my village who told me that if my family paid him £2000, he will make all the necessary arrangements for me to travel to the UK and get a job that will enable me to support my family and maybe even bring them over. He told me the success stories of other people he had done the same thing for.
At this point my parents were both very ill but they wanted to support me in every way they could. Between their savings, selling valuables, and support from other family members, they were able to raise the funds to invest in what they thought would be a bright future for all of us. Sadly not too long after this, they both died of ill health, within a month of each other.
I arrived in the UK excited to start my new life. I was hopeful that things could only get better. I was met at the airport and taken to a farm. When I arrived at the farm I realised that something was not right. I was locked in tiny room all by myself. There was a thin mattress on the floor and a bucket which I was told to use as a makeshift toilet. I was given bread to eat and water to drink while I was being forced to work on the farm every day, and paid no wages.
Out on the farm we were always chaperoned and not allowed to speak with each other. We also had no contact with the outside world as we were either being watched or kept under lock and key. I lived like this and worked on the farm for almost three months before noticing one day that my room door was open.
When it seemed like everyone had left the farm for the day, I ran as fast as I could, barefooted and did not stop until I bumped into a stranger who luckily listened to my story and believed me. They told me about another church in Birmingham where I can get some support. They offered me some money and showed me to the nearest train station.
When I got to Birmingham, the church was very helpful but they recognised that I needed specialist support and so they referred me to The Haven and put me in touch with an elderly couple in Wolverhampton who were willing to host me while I got help.
The Haven put me in touch with immigration solicitors who assisted me with my claim for asylum. They also offered me counselling and emergency accommodation but I chose to stay with the elderly couple who have been very good to me, and could do with my support around the house. I don’t know what the future holds at this stage but I am hopeful thanks to The Haven’s community team and my new adoptive parents.
Harpreet’s name has been changed to protect her identity. Images are for illustration purposes only.