Two back-to-back rescue operations on Wednesday morning have brought freedom to 10 people once trapped in modern slavery, including three children forced to make bricks alongside their parents.
The operations took place at two small, neighbouring brick kilns in southern India. One family had been enslaved for four years. They moulded heavy clay into thousands of bricks and then stacked and dried them in the sun. The two children—ages 11 and 12—had to help their parents toil before and after school every day, turning the hot bricks so they dried evenly.
At the second kiln, a 7-year-old girl helped her parents stack, bake and load the completed bricks so they could be sold. Her three younger siblings were not yet working, and none of them had ever been to school in the past two years.
IJM staff were present with local government officials as they confirmed the family’s stories and help them pack up their belongings to leave. The officials were clearly moved by the victims’ reports of physical and emotional abuse from the slave owners. One woman could barely walk because she was so ill, and another man cradled a wounded wrist from a recent beating.
Charges have been filed against both kiln owners in these cases, and local police will move forward with their arrests in the near future.
As the rescue operations concluded, the lead government official vowed to lead an awareness campaign in his community about bonded labour slavery and even plans to make brick kiln owners post signs against this crime.
Over the next few days, IJM and the officials will help the rescued families move to a safer new home and begin rebuilding life in freedom—where these young children will be free to be kids for the first time in years.
(Photo: Children demonstrate to government officials how they turned drying bricks in the sun.)