By Mark Ellis —
Officials in Chennai freed 76 victims of human trafficking—including boys as young as 10—from a group of factories profiting from their forced labor for many years, according to a report by International Justice Mission (IJM).
A lawyer in Chennai received an anonymous tip about dozens of boys being exploited in jewelry-making factories, which he then referred to IJM.
“We worked with the local government to identify the target locations and conduct a rescue operation at five separate factories on September 6 and follow-up rescues at two factories on September 11,” according to IJM.
The 76 young men and boys had been trafficked from West Bengal, 1,000 miles away in northern India. They were forced to work at the factories for 14 hours a day—often until midnight—inside locked rooms in a filthy building.
“They slept in one large room on thin straw mats, while factory owners monitored them constantly through CCTV cameras so they could never run away,” according to IJM.
Each day, the boys were forced to make hundreds of pieces of gold jewelry—often handling harsh chemicals and breathing fine metal dust without any protection. Some had worked at the factories for 10 years. “Even on the day of rescue, they were working furiously at their stations without stopping. Many of their hands were stained, scarred and burned from this painful work.”
“Most of the boys rescued are very young. When they were rescued and brought to our vehicle, they started playing—and that is how they should be,” said one IJM staff member who participated in the first wave of operations. “They should be allowed to enjoy and live their childhood and not made to work in hazardous conditions. They should be going to school.”
He added, “These children have been rescued from just five units. There are so many children still caught up in places they shouldn’t be.”
Local authorities arrested four factory owners who enslaved the young men and boys. The alleged perpetrators requests for bail were denied.
On September 13th, IJM and government authorities helped the rescued boys return to their families in West Bengal.
“When the boys heard the news they’d be going home, they danced, excitedly packed their belongings, and hugged IJM’s staff with joy,” according to IJM.
IJM will be working with the boys and their families to find ways to support themselves, so they will be less susceptible to trafficking.
For more about IJM, go here