CHENNAI, INDIA – Twenty-two-year-old Aadav* was elated as he deboarded a plane at Trichy International Airport on September 14. He was returning home from two years of turmoil and anxiety, after being trafficked to Malaysia and exploited by drug traffickers.
Aadav grew up as the youngest of four siblings in a small town in the state of Tamil Nadu. In early 2020, a recruiter approached Aadav’s family with a job opportunity, saying he could work at a Malaysian temple and earn 35,000 rupees (about $440 USD) per month. This was a huge amount for an impoverished family like his. He excitedly made his travel plans and flew to Malaysia on the morning of March 8, 2020.
But when Aadav arrived, the trafficker’s promises fell apart. He was taken to a small condominium and forced to pack drugs. For the next several months, he and three other men were trapped inside without adequate food or rest and faced constant physical abuse.
After several weeks, Aadav negotiated with the traffickers to allow him to call his family. Once they heard the truth, the family filed a police complaint to try to get Aadav home.
Local Indian authorities then worked with their counterparts in Malaysia to locate the traffickers’ condo and the four victims trapped there. On May 25, 2020, the Malaysia police staged a rescue operation to free the men and arrest their exploiter. From there, Aadav was supported in a government shelter for his protection until his case hearing was completed in August 2022.
IJM’s team in Malaysia heard about Aadav’s story from a local casework partner and worked with IJM staff in South Asia to help him return home at last. IJM India staff received Aadav at the airport on September 14 and drove him to see his parents, Kannan and Muthu—a joyful reunion after more than two years of fear.
IJM’s state office in Tamil Nadu will work with our local NGO partner IRCDS to support Aadav’s rehabilitation and reintegration. He’s hoping to focus on computer skills training to earn a dignified living at home.
We also helped connect Aadav’s family with district government officials, who will provide ongoing support. Aadav bravely told these officials about other victims from Tamil Nadu who he had seen in Malaysia and expressed his determination to bring these victims home, too.
Aadav shared, “I am grateful that the government collaborated with other non-governmental organizations to safely repatriate me. There are still many people who are trapped in dangerous situations, and the government must take appropriate measures to bring them home safely."
Thinking about these other victims, he added, “Don’t put your trust in sleazy agents. Do a thorough background check. Don’t go abroad just to make quick money. Instead, stay in your homeland with your family, work hard, and succeed. I humbly request the government to take immediate action and rescue people who are trapped outside our country.”
IJM also commended government agencies in both countries for their diligent efforts to protect Aadav and help him return home safely. We look forward to partnering with these officials and others who are proactively protecting vulnerable people from violence.