“I feel very good about it. Now they won’t bother me again,” Tomas Miko told CBC News on Wednesday. “If someone did it to me once, perhaps they’d do it again.”
Miko was one of 19 Hungarian men who were falsely lured to Canada by the Domotor-Kolompar criminal organization with the promise of work in the construction industry and thousands of dollars in pay. Instead, they were kept in basements, forced to work from dawn to dusk and fed table scraps.
On Tuesday, Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney announced 20 members of the trafficking ring were sent back to Hungary after serving their sentences. But as happy as Miko is about the deportations, it has been difficult to adjust to life in Canada since he escaped, he says.
“It’s so hard to trust people, but I’m working on it,” he said. “For me, it’s taking a long time.”
Miko was first lured to Canada with the promise of $3 to $4,000 a month working construction jobs when he couldn’t find work in Hungary. “They promised me everything,” he said. Instead, he worked 14- to 16-hour days for no pay, and lived in squalid conditions.
A brutal Christmas
Once Miko and the rest of the men entrapped by the Domotor-Kolompar organization got to Canada, their passports were seized and they were made to apply for refugee status as well as welfare. Their captors threatened violence against their families back home if they left.
It was particularly bad during the holidays.
“When Christmastime came, we didn’t have Christmas,” he said. “We were outside in the cold watching them inside. It was so hard.”
Miko managed to escape and tell his story to the RCMP, ultimately leading to the 2010 bust of the Domotor gang under the code name Project OPAPA.
“I felt like I was reborn when I got out,” he said. “I felt so much better — just because I didn’t have to go back.”
Since escaping the human trafficking ring, it has been tough gaining a foothold in Canada. Miko has worked as a housekeeper and is completing high school. He says he hopes this high-profile case will help Canadians understand that human trafficking is a real concern in this country.
“Some people don’t even know what’s going on here,” he said.
“You never know what your neighbours are doing.”
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) deported 20 people from May 2012 to May 2014 at the end of their prison sentences. The nine deportations publicly announced Tuesday were:- Krisztina Csaszar.
- Ferenc Domotor Jr.
- Gizella Domotor.
- Jozsef Domotor.
- Ferenc Karadi.
- Attila Kolompar.
- Gizella Kolompar.
- Gyozo Papai.
- Janos Szanto.
A Canadian escort back to Hungary
The CBSA even went so far as to send an escort to ensure the nine arrived in Hungary.
“Generally, if the CBSA has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual could pose a danger to the public during a flight, officers will be deployed to escort the individual to their point of finality,” CBSA spokeswoman Antonella DiGirolamo told CBC News.
DiGirolamo could not say exactly how much those exports cost.
“Removal costs vary depending on a number of factors, including the destination, the availability of flights, the need for an escort (including medical), the need to charter a flight, the distance travelled, length of travel time, etc,” she said in an email. "The CBSA regularly assesses the need for escorts when making arrangements to remove a person from Canada.”
In April 2012, the kingpin of the human trafficking ring, Ferenc Domotor Sr., was sentenced to nine years in prison after he pleaded guilty to being part of a criminal organization, conspiracy to traffic in human beings and coercing victims to mislead immigration authorities.
Officials at Tuesday's news conference confirmed he is still in custody. Domotor's brother, Gyula Domotor, was not deported because he is the only member of the criminal organization with Canadian citizenship.