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Christian charity applauds Sir Mo Farah's 'powerful' revelation of being a child slave

by Donna Birrell

A Christian campaigner has welcomed Sir Mo Farah's decision to reveal that he was trafficked into Britain as a child slave at the age of nine.  

The Olympic and World Champion athlete said he was brought to Britain from Djibouti and forced to do housework and childcare in exchange for food.

In an interview with the BBC, the 39-year-old who was born in Somalia, said his name had been changed to Mohamed Farah from Hussein Abdi Kahin in fake travel documents used to fly him to Britain by a woman he had never met before.

Once he arrived in the UK, the woman took him to her home in Hounslow in west London, and tore apart a paper with the contact details of his relatives. Her family did not allow him to go to school until the age of 12.

Sir Mo said:"For years I just kept blocking it out, but you can only block it out for so long. Often I would just lock myself in the bathroom and cry. The only thing I could do to get away from this was to get out and run."

Sir Mo was eventually found a foster carer with the help of his PE teacher who contacted social services after discovering his circumstances:

"I felt like a lot of stuff was lifted off my shoulders, and I felt like me. That's when Mo came out - the real Mo.

"I had no idea there was so many people who are going through exactly the same thing that I did. It just shows how lucky I was.

"What really saved me, what made me different, was that I could run."

Esther Swaffield-Bray from Christian charity International Justice Mission UK welcomed his decision to speak out :

"Mo's story is a really powerful reminder of the reality of child trafficking in the UK and around the world. And it might come as a surprise but there are an estimated 10 million children trapped in forms of slavery around the world. So this is a very, very real problem. It happens in lots of ways there is domestic servitude, like what happened to Mo but also forced labour and sexual exploitation. As Mo's story really powerfully demonstrates, it is a problem also right here in the UK, hidden in plain sight. 

"This story is a really powerful example of why we need to take action. Everyone has a part to play in the movement to end trafficking, to end modern slavery. 

"Crimes like slavery, like human trafficking, they thrive in the dark and when we can shine a light onto them, that is the first step."

Sir Mo, who completed the 5,000 and 10,000 metres double at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is planning to compete in the London Marathon in October.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) currently provides the best measure of potential victims, although is known to be an undercount. Data for the UK NRM for the year ending December 2021 shows an increase of 9 per cent in the number of potential child victims referred compared with the previous year (from 5,028 to 5,468).

Listen to Premier's interview with Esther Swaffield-Bray here:

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