328 Slaves Rescued in India as Global Slavery Index Releases New Figures, Modi Heads to U.S

CHENNAI, India, June 1, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Over the weekend, International Justice Mission (IJM), the world's largest international anti-slavery organization, assisted Indian authorities outside the city of Chennai in the rescue of 328 people—including 88 children--from bonded labor slavery in a vast and abusive brick kiln.

The operation took place just days before the Walk Free Foundation's Global Slavery Index released its latest figures, which estimates that there are a total of 45.8 million people enslaved worldwide, with India topping the list.

IJM has been partnering with local authorities in South Asia for more than 15 years, working to combat bonded labor slavery and sex trafficking.

"This rescue operation demonstrates the critical importance of ending impunity for those who would enslave and abuse others for profit," said Saju Mathew, VP of South Asia Operations for IJM. "These families are now free, but holding perpetrators accountable under local law must be a global priority if we are going to make more than just a dent in the monstrosity that is modern day slavery."

This past weekend's operation was the result of an injured worker's hospitalization, which was discovered by IJM and brought to local authorities for action. It was the second operation that IJM and local authorities had conducted at this particular brick kiln. In 2015, IJM helped local authorities rescue another 333 people from the same kiln, but the owner was left unarrested and continued trafficking and enslaving families.

Government officials, the IJM team, and more than 20 police officers arrived at the kiln on Saturday morning, working late into the night to bring families to safety. Officials arranged food, medical care and shelter for the rescued families at a nearby wedding hall. On Sunday, authorities granted release certificates to dissolve the false debts holding the families in bondage and IJM and authorities arranged for transportation back to their home villages, where they will join IJM's two-year aftercare program for rescued slaves.

A high-ranking official in the Indian government issued a statement Saturday evening warning strong action against any brick kiln or rice mill found to be using bonded labor.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 8.

International Justice Mission is the world's largest international anti-slavery organization, working to end modern-day slavery, human trafficking and other forms of violence against the poor by rescuing and restoring victims, restraining perpetrators, and transforming broken public justice systems. Learn more at www.ijm.org.

A photo accompanying this release is available at: http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=40446

CONTACT: Julie Kilcur jkilcur@ijm.org 443-878-5996 (m)

Source:International Justice Mission