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Zimbabwean Healthcare Worker Struggles with Mental Health in UK Amid Migration Scam

A Zimbabwean nurse who lost $8,000 to a migration scam now languishes in poverty in the United Kingdom. Graphic by The Guardian

A Zimbabwean nurse who was promised a career in the UK as a carer found herself destitute after being a victim of a migration scam. Now struggling with poverty, stress, and trauma from harsh working conditions, she relies on community support to get by.
BY MELODY C. MPANDE | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | MAR 5, 2023

KETTERING, England (The Citizen Bulletin) — Nokuthula Lunga* gave up her nursing career in Zimbabwe and sold her home expecting to start anew as a career in the UK. But the 32-year-old arrived to discover it was all a scam that has left her diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and relying on anti-depressants and food banks to survive.

Lunga tells her story from her small apartment in Kettering, where she lives alone since being tricked into paying $8,000 to an agent who promised her a job.

“When I arrived, I had nothing. I felt like I lost my mind,” she says.
Lunga is not alone. A recent survey found one-third of nearly 11,000 unpaid UK carers reported thoughts of self-harm or suicide due to stress, anxiety, depression and feeling overburdened in their role. Over 100 sponsor licenses have been revoked from companies exploiting migrants.

This reporter contacted numbers used by scammers impersonating legitimate employers. Posing as a client, they were told to pay £3,000 for a certificate, but grew suspicious when in-person meetings were declined.

Now working part-time at a local domiciliary care company, Lunga says long hours on a bicycle between clients' homes in cold weather leave her often unable to afford nutritious meals. Like 46% of food bank users, she has previously gone an entire day without eating. She now relies on donations to local “community fridges.”

WhatsApp screenshot conversation between our reporter and migrant scammers.

Mental and physical issues afflict 71% of the UK's estimated 1 million unpaid carers, according to the Mental Health Foundation. The NHS and care sector are struggling with shortages and stressed, overworked staff - 40% of doctors report worsening depression or other conditions.

Her situation is similar to Mildred Dube*, a healthcare assistant back in Zimbabwe who paid $3,000 to an unregulated agency for her first failed attempt at migrating years ago. Both fell victim to illegal but lucrative schemes that profit from migrant workers' desperation.

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Lunga regrets leaving her home country and career, alone in an unfamiliar country coping with poverty and poor mental health.

“Care work is not for the faint-hearted,” she says. “I never imagined migrating would be like this.”

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