BANGALORE, INDIA – Today in India, IJM helped rescue 61 people from a life of slavery. Entire families were trapped in the brick kiln, and children as young as 5 years old were forced to work. Exhausted and malnourished, the children, women and men were living in makeshift tents – plastic tarps stretched over bamboo sticks.
When IJM Bangalore discovered that dozens of people were trapped in the brick kiln as forced labor slaves, they took the evidence to the local government. But the brick kiln owner got wind of the pending operation, and it became a race to rescue the families before they were hidden away.
On December 20, 2012, a team of IJM staff, police and government officials showed up at the brick kiln. All eight children were missing. The men and women fell to their hands and knees, begging to be set free and get their children back. The officials were deeply moved, unable to deny the reality before them. Eventually, a brick kiln supervisor confessed to where the children were – hidden in another brick kiln. The rescue team moved quickly to reunite the families and bring them to safety.
"It was a gift to us to be a part of this rescue operation, just days before Christmas. Their long-awaited freedom is a reminder of the meaning of this joyful season."– Saju Mathew, IJM Director of Operations, South Asia
The head government official worked late into the night, interviewing each family to hear their story, then granting release certificates to legally emancipate them from slavery. IJM staff provided food and explained what was happening to the frightened families. Slowly, the children, women and men started to understand. They had been set free.
"These families had waited in desperation," says Saju Mathew, IJM's Director of Operations in South Asia, adding, "It was a gift to us to be a part of this rescue operation, just days before Christmas. Their long-awaited freedom is a reminder of the meaning of this joyful season."
IJM will continue to provide crisis care in the coming days. The families were trafficked from a state 700 miles away, and this weekend IJM social workers will board a train with the families to help them make their way home.