In November 2012, 43-year-old Bulgarian Jemal Borovinov and 14 others were taken from their home country and soon found themselves trapped in a human trafficking ring operating in southern Italy. Fortunately, Jemal and his wife managed to escape their captors a few months into their bout of enforced slavery and make it back to Bulgaria. I met Jemal in a petrol station in his hometown of Razgrad to find out exactly what happened to him.
What did they make you do other than sell drugs?
I had to drive a bus that they’d stolen. They changed the Italian plates to Bulgarian ones. A bunch of them would come around every night at around 2 AM, usually high, and beat us up before ordering us to steal gas from Italian gas stations. We never picked any strawberries. They also took our phones, money, and IDs away, but luckily I had a second phone that we hid in our dirty socks.
So did someone come and pick you up?
No, five of us snuck out during the night when the armed guards were dozing off. The old guy helped us do that and I’m so thankful to him. Without him we wouldn’t have succeeded. So we ran through the fields for about four kilometers until we reached the road, but no one wanted to pick us up, and it turned out that they had caught and tortured my brother-in-law, who told them everything, so they blocked my phone, and I couldn’t call anyone. My wife and I were crying like babies. That’s when I thought, This is the end; we are going to die. And then my wife remembered that she had €20 hidden in her bra, so we managed to get out of there.