A woman lured to the UK believing she would receive a free education and a better life ended up being kept as a slave for more than a decade.
Back in 2003, Afolake Adeniji, 50, arranged for 27-year-old Iyabo Prosper to fly to London from her home in Nigeria when she was just 13. However, Adeniji subjected Iyabo to a campaign of exploitation that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Promised an education that would have eluded her had she stayed in her native village, she came to live with Adeniji and her family – first in Beckton, east London, and then Chelmsford, Essex.
But instead she was forced to wake up at 5.30am each morning to get Adeniji’s children ready for school before spending the rest of her day cleaning the house ‘for up to 16 hours a day’, Southwark Crown Court heard.
The jury was told Ms Prosper could only eat her dinner once she had fed Adeniji and then spent the rest of her evening finishing off the household chores before the process was repeated the following day.
Jurors also heard that Adeniji’s children would even ask her ‘Why aren’t you doing this, aren’t you our slave?’ if something was not done for them.
‘Effectively that was what she was living – the life of domestic servitude,’ added Mr Sheikh.
‘It soon became apparent that Iyabo had become miserable, had become extremely depressed, was having negative thoughts and suicidal ideas.’
Mr Sheikh told the court that ‘because of the ordeal at the hands of the defendant’, who was ‘emotionally and verbally abusive’ Iyabo went on to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
As she grew older, the worker ‘plucked up the courage’ to leave the household and report her treatment to the police before Adeniji was arrested in October 2014.
Adeniji now stands trial accused of arranging or facilitating Ms Prosper’s travel to the UK with a view to exploiting her and inflicting grievous bodily harm in relation to her alleged victim’s anxiety disorder.
‘This case concerns the trafficking of a teenage girl into this country from Nigeria in order for her to be exploited,’ said Mr Sheikh in opening his case to the jury.
‘She was lured into this country with a promise of education and a better life. Instead, she was forced to live a life of domestic servitude.
‘She was forced to clean, mind the defendant’s children and effectively live the life of a house girl. She was led to believe that her life would be better, that she would receive an education,’ ‘Because in Nigeria, where she had been living, education had to be paid for and she was from a poor family.’
About how Iyabo got to meet Adeniji, the court heard her brother, Pascal, worked for a wealthy family in Lagos and would come to visit his own relatives once a year.
During one such trip, he told his siblings they would be accompanying him to meet his employers ‘and that Iyabo would eventually be travelling to the UK’.
She was greeted by Adeniji’s mother, Bisi Sanni, along with another relative, Bayo Sanni, who arranged for her to have an interview at the British Embassy.
Jurors heard they coached the teenager through the likely questions she would be asked as well as what answers to give but the schoolgirl, nervous at being interviewed by the first white woman she had ever seen, flunked the application for a visitor’s visa.
Another visit from her brother brought the news that the refusal had been overturned on appeal and after saying goodbye to her family, Ms Prosper flew to London in August 2003 with Mr Sanni.
‘Although she was only 13 or so, very young at the time, she was told to look after the children on the long flight over to the UK,’ said Mr Sheikh.
‘That was the first sign of what was to come, because she was only 13 and had to look after two boisterous young children.’
The court heard she had to share the box room occupied by Adeniji’s children and would be up at 5.30am to get them fed and ready for school.
Household chores would occupy the rest of her day until she had to pick them up, prepare dinner for the family and tidy up before getting to bed at around 10.30pm, it is said.
‘Effectively what was happening was that they were getting a childminder for free,’ the prosecutor said of the arrangement.
The regime continued even if Adeniji had friends or family over as well as if Ms Prosper was brought along to visit them, jurors heard.
After insisting that she wanted to get out and earn her own money, she defied Adeniji’s strict rules not to speak to anyone outdoors and struck up conversation with a mother-of-three at the park.
The two eventually discussed her ordeal and Ms Prosper ‘plucked up the courage’ to leave the house and eventually report the matter to police.
Following her arrest in October 2014, Adeniji blasted the accusations as ‘untrue’, instead claiming that Ms Prosper was ‘part of a loving family’ and ‘given financial and emotional support’.
She also insisted that ‘as part of her family the only chores were nothing over and above what other family members do’, said Mr Sheikh.
Adeniji, of no fixed abode but previously of Chelmsford, Essex, denies arranging or facilitating the travel to the UK of a person with a view to exploitation and GBH.
The trial continues.
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