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The Real Mo Farah

14th July 2022 | From our team

The Clewer Initiative

Seven things the Real Mo Farah documentary taught us about modern slavery.

We were shocked to watch The Real Mo Farah documentary this week and hear his disturbing story of being trafficked to the UK as a child and put to work as a slave for a family he did not know. We are thankful to him for his courage in raising awareness of this horrific crime. He brought to light many harrowing aspects of modern slavery. These are some of our reflections:

  • His story is not unique. All across the world, children are being trafficked and exploited and some of these children end up in the UK, unseen and neglected. Worldwide, one in four victims of modern slavery are children. In 2021, 5,468 child victims were referred to the Home Office’s National Referral Mechanism - 2,166 of these children were from overseas. There were 48 cases of domestic servitude – but this is just the tip of the iceberg as many victims never come forward, fearing the repercussions of speaking up.
  • Family members are often involved – the revelation that Mo Farah’s uncle agreed to traffic his nephew to the UK and hand him over to an unrelated person, never to be seen again, was one of the most harrowing parts of the documentary. This is not uncommon. Families can often be complicit in child trafficking.
  • There were many tell-tale signs – Mo Farah’s teachers tried, again and again, to understand exactly what his background was. They received confused messages about his past and his “family” were reluctant to attend meetings to discuss his situation. Mo would turn up to school unkempt and uncared for and seemed isolated and emotionally distant. When asked questions about his home life, he was evasive, quick to change the subject or pretended not to understand. When his PE teacher encouraged him to join after school running clubs, he made up excuses about why he couldn’t attend. This is so typical. We often speak about the “absence of normal.” If things don’t feel right, they probably aren’t.
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  • One trusted individual changed his life – Mo Farah knew instinctively that his PE teacher was a good person and trustworthy. He needed to tell someone the truth and break free of his domestic servitude and his PE teacher had taken an interest in him. The care and concern of this teacher changed his life.
  • The importance of knowing what to do if you have concerns – Mo’s PE teacher knew he needed to take action and immediately informed social services. It is vital that everyone knows what to do with suspicions relating to modern slavery and exploitation. Nowadays, 30 years on, the Modern Slavery Helpline is the best number to ring with concerns.
  • The trauma of the victim lives on – Mo Farah has been living freely for more than 25 years and yet the fear, guilt and shame was evident throughout the programme. Recovering from being a victim of modern slavery and trafficking is a long and complicated process.
  • The complexity of speaking out – in the documentary, Mo Farah and his wife articulate the fear they now feel that he may lose his UK citizenship, having revealed the truth behind his situation. His experience is common – fear of being deported stops many victims from coming forward. The National Referral Mechanism is complicated and victims often have to fight for many years to prove they are genuine victims of modern slavery and trafficking rather than illegal migrants.

To watch the documentary in full, go to

Children in the Shadows is The Clewer Initiative’s latest resource. It focuses on the different ways children are exploited in the UK and overseas and how communities can tackle exploitation and protect vulnerable children.

To find out more, visit

Email if you would like to find out more about our training and how we work with churches to help them identify and support victims of modern slavery in their midst.

Modern Slavery Helpline

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