In 2010, Ana stayed in Oslo, Norway, for 5 months. The discrimination she was subjected to prevented her from finding a job, despite her bachelor’s degree in Design. She had to live with 11 other migrants from all over the world in a tiny apartment. She made a living out of selling her handmade jewelry. In 2015 she left for England, where she is currently living.
I’d found this recruiting company called M. S. Wranghel online. Actually, a friend found them, we were searching together, we wanted to leave for England. Eventually I left and he stayed in Romania.
I didn’t leave just like that, I looked for job offers, I studied the market. I was looking for reviews of recruiting companies – you’ll always find both good ones and bad ones, you can’t really tell which of them are for real and which are bogus. But I hadn’t found anything bad about this company on any forum, except maybe one or two bad reviews. And the girl from Wranghel I talked to seemed ok, she was from Timisoara, that made me feel more comfortable, seeing as there are nicer people there (laughs).
I talked to her on Skype and on the phone a lot and she really seemed nice. I had several Skype interviews with the prospective employers from England – it’s all a sort of Babel tower, there’s a recruiting company in Romania working with a recruiter from England hiring me to work for a “care provider”.
In the initial contract, which was completely different from what I signed in England, I was meant to be a part-time “office assistant”, part-time “care-giver”. But they said the care-giver part started only after a training which I could choose to go through or not, and without the training I could have stayed on as a full-time assistant. The training was 1500 pounds and once you went through it, you had some sort of qualification, you were officially a “care-giver”. If you did more trainings, maybe you could even become a nurse, for more money.
The thing is, once I got to England, in Slough, it was clear to me I wasn’t going to work as an office assistant, only as a care-giver. It was the same for all who had come there through various recruiters, not just the ones from Romania. The recruiter from England was part of the deception. A girl from Bulgaria had been promised the exact same thing. And she hadn’t been an office assistant for a single day, event hough she’d been there for 9 months. She was like most of us there, without any money, and we had to take the jobs we were given because we had no other options.
Initially they told me I had 2 days a week off. Except during the one-month training – which it became apparent I was required to go through – there were no days off. It was 7 days a week, between 10 to 16 hours a day. A sort of slavery.
The worst part was the distance between patients. They said initially that the distances could be covered, if you didn’t have a driver’s license, in 15 minutes walking. But it took about an hour, and the time I was spending on the road was not being paid. So out of those 16 hours, 6 were spent on the road without being paid for it.
Then I uncovered a bunch of other issues: they said they’d offer me accommodation until I could find something. But I was paying for it. As I was paying for my uniform. And when you’re paying for all this, you really don’t feel like or really don’t have anything left for thousands of bus fares between patients. I didn’t even know where I had to go. They were just saying I had to be at a certain address at a certain time. If I didn’t have google maps, I had no idea how to get to those places.
Accommodation was in a hostel, 25 pounds a night. On my floor there were one-person rooms, but also rooms for two or more people. This hostel was just for people coming to work for this company and who couldn’t find anything cheaper yet. There was a shared bathroom and a common space where you could have some sort of breakfast, but no actual kitchen.
Once I started the training – even though I didn’t want to be a care-giver – I had to pay back the 1500 pounds if I decided to leave. Because they “trained” me and “invested” in me. And you had to stay and work for them until your debt matched your labor time. The Bulgarian girl could leave after 10 months working for them. And she was just going to leave, she was getting ready, when I wrrived. They would deduct money for everything. If they gave you a company car and you used it to get to the patients, the gas was coming out of your pocket.
So I decided to leave before the training. They didn’t want me to leave, there was a big fuss, but they couldn’t keep me. Even the people from the recruiting firm in Romania tried to convince me to stay.
But I decided to go to London, I thought there were more opportunities here than in Slough. I just came to London. I knew two people here, I thought they were my friends, but they didn’t help me with anything.
I saw how the rents work here, that you can’t get anything if you don’t talk to people first, because owners have these stupid rules: no people sleeping over, no people after midnight, no people visiting etc. Rents are very high, few can afford to live on their own, so you have to share a flat and these issues come up.
When I arrived in London, I called all my friends. The cousin of one of my friend’s husband had been living here for 3-4 years, she was friends with an Italian couple. She talked to them and they were very nice and took me in. It was supposed to be for a week, but in the end it was a month and a half. They were living with another Italian couple. I was sitting on the sofa in the living room. In the meantime I was looking for jobs and rent.
I started working as a hostess for this crappy American restaurant. I had a contract, but no health insurance. I was constantly looking for rent on all the flat-sharing sites. I got stood up by real estate agencies – you had to pay to see the newest ads. You know, when you arrive in a new place you think the people are different, they’re awesome, no corruption…Not true, corruption is everywhere.
And as a single girl, all kinds of shit happens to you. Many owners asked for my Facebook profile, they asked me to talk about myself, they asked to see me, since I was from Romania, from the East. And there were all kinds of propositions, from going out for coffee to…the weirdest was when one guy started taking photos of me in his apartment when I came to check the place out, and he was trying to get me to take my clothes off.