Fighting for Justice: 2012 - today: Fatima
My name is Fatima. I am from Morocco. We are a poor family. My father is very cruel to my mother. He takes any money she earns and spends it himself. He even takes the furniture and sells it. I have a younger brother who is disabled and it’s very hard for my mother. My father sent me to Qatar when I was 18 years old to work and for me to send money home. Life in Qatar was very hard but when I went home after two years my father arranged for me to marry a man like himself. I was 20 years old and this man was 48. He was very cruel to me so after two months I decided to go back to my employers in Qatar. Once back in Qatar I divorced my husband.
I came first to England in 2010 and stayed with my employer for two months here and then we all went back to Qatar. In Qatar there were 36 domestic staff including women and men from different nationalities. There were four wives and many children. My employers treated us badly, always shouting at us, calling us names like, “Hamara” (donkey), “Kalba” (dog) and “Dagara” (cow). They didn’t treat us like human beings. We didn’t have time off but had to work all the time or be on call when they need us. My main work was looking after one of the sons who was ill and needed a lot of medical care. They didn’t pay us according to our contract, only half what was in the contract.
In August 2013 the family came to London again and this son, aged 27, was travelling with them. The son asked for me to go to look after him. He was always touching me and harassing me sexually. When I complained to his mother she got very angry and shouted at me “Who do you think you are that you can say what my son is to do or not to do? – your job is to do what he wants”. They were so cruel to us, to all of us. I have marks on my legs and my arms where the son would hit me with hard objects. One time he slammed the car door on my fingers when I answered him back. You can see the bruise still where the nail fell off. When we were travelling in the car and they got angry they’d take off a shoe and bang us on the head with it. It wasn’t just me, they did this to any of us when they got angry. On one occasion the son bit me on the leg – the mark is still there. One day he was trying to rape me and I thought if I speak nicely to him he would understand. I said to him “You’re a big family and a good family why don’t you let me just be your housekeeper and get another woman for yourself”. But he caught my hair in his fist and pushed me to the table, it was a glass table, and he split my upper lip and my forehead. When I went to the GP he asked me how I got that and I told him. He wrote it all down, but one came from the family, and the doctor changed what he had written down to say that I just fell down. When I came back my employer told me the next time she hears anything happens in the house from outside, I will be disappeared, myself and the woman who introduced me to them.
When I couldn’t take any more of this I decided to run away. There was a Sudanese guy who looked after the office and I asked him if he would get my passport for me. He said, “I don’t want to get it in my hand but I’ll tell you where it is and you can get it yourself”. That’s how I got my passport because my employers always kept it to themselves. I didn’t know what visa I got or for how long. It was only after I escaped from them that I discovered things like that.
When I was with them we lived near Victoria Station. I didn’t know any other place in London so when I left them I went straight to Victoria. I didn’t know anybody in London. I stayed in the station for three months. I used to go out during the day and walk around and then in the evenings I’d come back to the station and a Moroccan guy who worked there showed me a place where I could sleep. People would give me small money or some food and that is how I survived. One day I spoke to a Moroccan woman who is blind. I told her my situation and she invited me to her house. She said I could stay with her for a few days. Then she introduced me to her friend, also Moroccan so I stay now between the two houses. I stay with one for a few nights and then go the other one. I help the woman who is blind by cleaning her house and helping with shopping and other things and she gives me small money and sometimes a bus pass. Then for my other friend I help by taking her children to school and collecting them in the afternoons when she is busy. She also gives me small money and sometimes top up for my bus pass.
When I first ran away I was very worried because my employer used to call me and say “Don’t think that you’re in London that we couldn’t get you. If we want we can find you and even put you in a box. I have too much problem in my head now that’s why I didn’t put you in my mind but we will get you”. I have changed my mobile number now so she can’t call me.
Life is very difficult for me. I worry a lot about my mother and brother at home and wish that I could earn enough money to be able to send some home for them. But my visa is finished and nobody wants to employ me without proper papers. My father has left my mother and is gone to live with another woman. He did that when he knew that I couldn’t send any money home. My mother earns by doing domestic work in houses, sometimes only £5 a day or if a good employer maybe£10 or £15 a day.
If I can get my papers the first thing I’ll do is to learn English so that I can get a good job. Then I would go home to visit my family that is my biggest wish. I haven’t seen them now for almost five years. It’s a long time.