Arsinte had been trafficked to Northern Ireland where he was forced to steal from shops and live in horrendous conditions. He had come on the false promise of work, not to become a criminal, so he took the brave decision to go to the police for help.

I first met Arsinte in 2014 when the police service of Northern Ireland referred him to Migrant Help for support.

Migrant Help sourced safe accommodation for him and provided him with clean clothes and access to medical care. Arsinte was approaching 60 years old and a bachelor when he entered Migrant Help support. He was a Romanian national from Arad. He had worked as an HGV mechanic/driver in Romania, so he believed the promise that his skills could gain him employment in the UK.

In 2013, he was approached by men who asked him if he would be willing to drive vehicles from Ireland to Romania. Arsinte jumped at the chance. He came from an impoverished background, poorly educated and he found that even with his skill set work was hard to come by.

Arsinte’s flight was paid for but upon arrival at Dublin Airport, he was met by people who told him that he was now their property! These people sold Arsinte to another family for 400 euros.

Arsinte was taken to an area in the Republic of Ireland where he was forced to work on vehicles with no wages or adequate accommodation. After the gang moved Arsinte to Northern Ireland where he was forced to shoplift. He was surviving by scavenging for food in bins and eating discarded fast food left on the roadways and pavements. Arsinte refused to be involved in this criminal behaviour and went to the police for help.

Arsinte was a quiet softly spoken man rather shy and was very respectful to females calling them, 'madam'. He became involved with local church groups helping where and how he could. He also volunteered with the Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland planting trees. Everywhere he went he made an impression on those he met and although he could speak little English he muddled by.

On one occasion while Arsinte and I were visiting the dentist he was informed that all his bottom teeth would need to be removed due to decay. He had been experiencing extreme pain for a considerable time so we both agreed it was for the best. It was an eventful afternoon with us both crying and Arsinte looking at me with sad eyes. Although the painful toothache was now a thing of the past, Arsinte had great difficulty getting used to his new set of dentures.

Arsinte came to the end of his time in our care and we assisted him with Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and move-on accommodation at a local homeless hostel. Here, again, he made an impression on staff and residents alike, always willing to assist with cleaning or other duties.

As a result of poor communication, Arsinte was denied JSA along with his housing Benefit. Although he was no longer in our care, we could not stand idly by and see this man whom we had invested so much time and energy in trying to get his life back on track, now face the prospect of sleeping rough on the streets of Belfast and being prey once again to Traffickers.

After making numerous phone calls, I managed to find him a job with a trusted businessman who owned a factory in town 35 miles outside of Belfast. We sourced him a bed with former Migrant Help clients from Ghana who we had sourced living accommodation and work for the previous year. They were only too willing to offer temporary accommodation for Arsinte.

On a Sunday morning, Roger McVicker and I escorted Arsinte to meet his new friends and set up a meeting with a local anti-trafficking group who had agreed to assist Arsinte register with a new GP, etc. I left that Sunday with a 'skip in my step' knowing that it was a new beginning for Arsinte, my client who had become my friend.

Two days later, I received a telephone call from Roger enquiring if Arsinte was allergic to anything. I found this strange. The next thing I heard from Roger was that Arsinte had suffered a massive heart attack on his first day of paid employment. Despite the effort of paramedics to resuscitate Arsinte, he had died at the scene.

Arsinte's death came as a terrible shock to me and to all who knew him. I was requested later that day to go to the local morgue and identify his body. This was a difficult task, however, it had to be done.

News of Arsinte’s death was relayed to his many friends and, after a few weeks, Arsinte was laid to rest in a lovely graveyard in County Armagh following a service of thanksgiving for his life where he was surrounded by those on whom he made an impression and who loved him dearly.

His only possessions consisted of Romanian bible, brass cigarette holder and £70, which was forwarded to his sister in Romania.

Gone but never forgotten, Arsinte. Blessings.

Anne Graham

Victims of Slavery Support Adviser,
Migrant Help Northern Ireland