Rescued From A Lifetime Of Slavery In Chennai

The families had been enslaved for nearly two decades, working seven days a week and earning barely enough to eat. They slept under makeshift tents built from sticks and tattered tarps.
The families had been enslaved for nearly two decades, working seven days a week and earning barely enough to eat. They slept under makeshift tents built from sticks and tattered tarps.

CHENNAI, INDIA – IJM helped rescue ten people from slavery in a sawmill last week – including six children, the youngest only 7 years old. Many of the children had been born there, and some of the adults said they had been trapped there for 18 years.

The children, ages 7 to 12, worked alongside the adults, cutting down trees for lumber, without power tools or heavy machinery. They worked ten hours a day, every single day of the week, and received about 50 cents a week – barely enough for food. There was no rest, no hope for escape.

IJM investigators discovered that the sawmill was being run on slave labor. They recorded the workers' stories and took the case to the government.

A district government official led the rescue operation on December 5, 2012. "This group of people lived under very pathetic conditions," explained the official in charge, struck by the harsh life these families had obviously endured as forced labor slaves; he added: "They spent their night hours in the open, because their tents were insufficient, and it was difficult to see them exposed to extreme weather."

After taking statements and documenting their stories, the government official issued each person a release certificate. These legal document declare them free from slavery and emancipate them from the sawmill where they were held as forced laborers. The official said he felt "very happy" to see the families set free, and he added that "the guidance and assistance of IJM was very good."

IJM took the families home to their villages. Now, IJM will help them readjust to life in freedom, a process that will take time since life in slavery is all these children have known.