IJM Helped Rescue Families In India: Slaves Worked 18-Hour Days, Slept Beside Pigs

The slaves slept in these long, narrow huts. Livestock roamed about and sometimes slept in the very same shelters.
The slaves slept in these long, narrow huts. Livestock roamed about and sometimes slept in the very same shelters.
Local authorities lead the rescue team into the brick factory where families were held in slavery.
Local authorities lead the rescue team into the brick factory where families were held in slavery.

CHENNAI, INDIA – Late last week, nearly 90 people were rescued from a life of slavery in Bihar, a northern state and one of the poorest in India. The families – including about 40 children – were forced to stay inside the brick factory at all times. A barbed-wire fence twisted around the factory, but the most effective tactic keeping them enslaved was fear.

IJM staff supporting the rescue operation said the men and women were at first too afraid to speak up, and some even started to run away when the team of government officials, IJM and partner staff asked questions about their lives in captivity. Their lives had been completely controlled by the brick factory owner, who required them to work up to 18 hours a day and gave them pennies for food.

"They could not even stand up in those spaces they believed to be homes," one IJM staff member said, adding that the pitiful row of sleeping quarters "smelled of the pigs that shared the same shelter space."

Even if they had been permitted to rest during the exhausting workday, there were no trees to provide shade or respite from the grueling hot sun. A single water pump was shared by the workers and the livestock – cattle, hens and pigs. The families slept in a row of tiny square huts made from clay bricks, measuring about 4ft by 4ft. They were more like pens than homes.

"They could not even stand up in those spaces they believed to be homes," one IJM staff member said, adding that the pitiful row of sleeping quarters "smelled of the pigs that shared the same shelter space." 

One of IJM's trained partners, Justice Ventures International, discovered the 87 people living inside the brick factory. A small team of IJM staff flew to Bihar to assist with the rescue operation. When the rescue team earned the trust of the frightened slaves, they started to open up about their hard lives inside the brick factory. 

The government official in charge issued 22 release certificates, legal documents that emancipate them from slavery and entitle them to government benefits including monetary compensation. IJM will work with Justice Ventures International to ensure the families receive the aftercare support they need to regain their strength and rebuild healthy lives in freedom.