Late Thursday evening, an IJM partner helped authorities free 14 trafficking survivors from a plastics factory where they had been forced to work for the last eight months.
The group included two 18-year-olds and twelve minors, ranging from 10 to 17 years old.
All of these young people had been trafficked from their home states of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Bihar to the southern tip of India, in Tamil Nadu state. They were recruited by a middleman working for the factory, who sought out desperate families and deceived them with promises of good work and fair pay.
Instead, the trafficker transported the children to this plastics factory and handed them over to the owners. He added up all of the victims’ travel expenses, like trains and food, and said the children had to repay this debt through their labor—or they would never be allowed to leave.
From there, the factory owners put them to work making plastic bags, nylon ropes and other plastic goods. They were expected to work at least 12 hours a day but were often required to labor all night long to meet a quota. Supervisors watched them constantly and only let them leave if they were severely sick or injured. At night, all of the victims slept together in one room.
One IJM staff member shared, “It was shocking to learn that the boys and girls were kept in the same room within the factory grounds. It is uncommon to see people of opposite genders forced to share a room by factories, especially during this pandemic.”
IJM heard about the conditions at the factory from another survivor of bonded labor who knew people working at the factory. We referred the case to our partner Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) who works in the same district. FSD staff alerted the local government to the exploitation on July 22, leading the District Sub-Collector to immediately form a rescue team with police and other local authorities.
Within 30 minutes of hearing about the case, officials arrived at the factory to interview the children about their experience and confirm the abuse. They then brought all 14 victims to safety at a government office. Officials took their detailed statements and gave them Release Certificates, which formally declare them as free from the traffickers and will help them access government benefits for their recovery.
Today, the survivors are staying at a safe shelter home, where they will get short-term medical care and counseling. Officials will also help them set up bank accounts and will deposit funds for their recovery, as per India’s laws. FSD staff will help the children return home as soon as they are able.
FSD is also supporting the government in filing an official police report against the factory owner and the middleman who trafficked the children—so they cannot hurt other families again.