MUMBAI, INDIA – When IJM and police entered the dimly lit lodge in a residential neighborhood of Mumbai, it was not for the first time. The long corridors leading to small rooms were all too familiar. IJM had been here multiple times over the last year, searching for underage girls who, their intelligence suggested, were routinely brought to the lodge and sold for sex. Time after time, the place had been empty.
Rescue At Last
But on February 1, 2013, three girls were inside the lodge. The police worked quickly to secure the premises. They arrested the owner and two other men who allegedly acted as pimps, bringing underage girls to the dingy lodge to be sold for sex, then whisking them away before there was any trace to follow the crime.
The IJM staff spoke to the three girls; at first they seemed confused and unsure who to trust. Their trust had been grossly violated, and it was understandable that they were not sure they could believe these strangers were here to help them. Back at the police station, IJM staff observed how the trafficking survivors started to open up. The girls cared for one another, literally wiping each other's tears.
An Unexpected Reunion
Right away, a local police officer recognized one of the young teens. At first she could not place where or why she knew the young Nepalese girl; then it dawned on her: Here was the girl from the missing person report.
The girl had moved from Nepal to Mumbai to live with her aunt. One day she went outside to play and simply disappeared. Her aunt had desperately searched for her, then filed a missing person report at this very police station. Now, about a year later, the young girl was finally reunited with her aunt.
The police arranged for the girls to go to a safe aftercare shelter for sex trafficking survivors. When IJM staff visited them the next day, the girls greeted them with warm hugs. IJM will continue to support the case as it develops against the suspected traffickers, and social workers will make regular visits to make sure the trafficking survivors are getting the care they need.