Shameena (a pseudonym) was found in Ladybrand in the Free State, after she escaped from the house where she was forced to work for little food and no pay. She had signed up with a so-called employment agency in Mumbai India to work as a domestic worker in South Africa. She was told that the money she would earn would first pay off the plane ticket and then be hers to send home to her family. Upon arrival in South Africa, through Lesotho, her passport and other possessions were taken from her and kept by her ‘employers’.
She could speak no English (a means of entrapping victims as they cannot communicate), only Urdu, but even with the language barrier, she thrived in the care of the team at a safe house she was placed in, in Bloemfontein.
Her ‘employers’ were eventually charged with offenses under the Immigration and Basic Conditions of Employment Acts; were fined, and forced to pay for Shameena’s return to India. Under the legal framework at the time, Shameena was classified as an illegal immigrant and had the investigating officer not found her passport in her employers’ possession, she would merely have been deported. Police used information from her employers to further their investigation into the syndicate that recruited her from India and brought her into South Africa through Lesotho.
Shameena is now home with her family in India with help from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).