18 July 2022: Open Democracy: There will never be another Mo Farah
As terrible as these revelations are, what’s more shocking is that he’d never receive that level of compassion today Francesca Humi
Last Wednesday, Mo Farah revealed in a new BBC documentary that he had not come to the UK as a refugee. He had, in fact, been trafficked to the UK to be a domestic worker when he was a child.
In his heart-breaking testimony, he describes being forced to cook, clean, and care for the children of his employers. He explains how he confided in his PE teacher at school, who then referred him to social services. The documentary shows that Farah’s school repeatedly petitioned the Home Office to grant him British citizenship, so that he could represent Great Britain in international running competitions. And in a particularly powerful segment, he is advised about the potential legal repercussions of sharing his true identity and story. Even now, he learns, the Home Office could revoke his citizenship if it wanted to.
What happened to Farah is shocking and moving. But for those working in the trafficking and exploitation sector, it is also familiar. I hear stories like his all the time in my work at Kanlungan Filipino Consortium, a community-based charity in London that supports domestic workers, undocumented migrants, and trafficking survivors. Many of our clients are Filipino women. Some have been made to work under horrific conditions. Think 12 hours a day for little to no pay, sleeping on the kitchen floor, and subsisting from their employers’ leftovers. They are often brought to the UK by their employers without knowing where they’re going or for how long, and without access to their contract and passports.
But one part of The Real Mo Farah surprised even me: the fact that it worked out. If Farah had spoken to his PE teacher today, rather than in the 1990s, events would almost certainly have taken a different course. Mo Farah, it’s safe to say, would never have been allowed to become Mo Farah.