International Justice Mission (IJM) reported Friday two rescue operations. Last week, IJM assisted in the rescue of 333 bonded laborers from a single brick factory in the Tiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu, near Chennai in India.
This was the second largest operation that IJM has ever assisted in, the first being a rescue of 512 people from a single Indian brick factory in 2011.
This week, IJM assisted in the rescue of 25 bonded laborers from another brick kiln in Karnataka, near Bangalore in India, where children as young as five were forced to make bricks all day.
“The fact that government officials have taken the lead in these rescue operations is a game-changer,” explained Saju Mathew, IJM Vice President of Operations for South Asia. “When we started working [in India] a decade ago, officials either hadn’t heard of bonded labor or denied that it existed in their state. Operations like these would have been unimaginable.”
In order to create long-term change in broken justice systems, IJM partners with local governments and communities to meet urgent and long-term needs with the end-goal of reliable, effective and self-sustaining local justice systems that protect the poor from violence.
In both cases, according to IJM, the forced labor slaves were brought from Odisha, a state where traffickers prey on vulnerable people living in poverty by offering jobs and an advance loan, only to trap them in bonded labor by using violence and other scare tactics, as well as charging exorbitant interest on the initial loan that keeps them indebted to the owner.
Up until the point of rescue, the forced labor slaves were living in horrendous conditions. In the Tamil Nadu brick kiln, survivors told officials that they had been verbally and physically abused by the factory owner, forced to carry enormous loads of bricks on their heads, and paid only $1-$3 for a 7-day work week—barely enough to buy plain rice to feed a family.
In the Karnataka brick kiln, families faced constant violence, were refused medical care, and were not allowed to leave the factory—even for holidays or family funerals.
According to IJM, both the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka brick factory owners have been arrested.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that there are nearly 36 million held in modern day slavery today to include forced labor and human trafficking. India has the largest estimated number of people in forced or “bonded labor” slavery of any country—between 10.7 and 12.7 million.
International Justice Mission is a global organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims of violence, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.
Photo courtesy: IJM
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