October 12, 2022, Update: 5 more freed, 4 arrested in ongoing investigation!
A year after this operation originally took place, The Exodus Road’s India team partnered with local law enforcement to check on the locations they’d raided. They found that the hotel-based brothels were operating again as part of a criminal network. Despite challenges presented by repeated tip-offs, investigators and police persevered. They successfully raided one of the hotels from before. They also raided an additional school building, where empty floors were being used by traffickers in the same network. Between those two locations, 5 women from Bangladesh were freed, and 4 additional traffickers were arrested!
The survivors are receiving aftercare services, while the men and the woman who trafficked them are in jail awaiting trial. Investigation of other suspects and locations is ongoing. The Exodus Road and our law enforcement partners will continue to dismantle this network, no matter how long it takes.
17 young women, trafficked because of COVID-19, have been set free in India
Economic devastation from COVID-19 made these 17 young women desperate enough to trust human traffickers. But COVID-19 couldn’t stop The Exodus Road’s BRAVO team.
In Operation Unify, our operatives in India partnered with 40 law enforcement officers. They found the 17 survivors, set them free, and arrested the 13 men who had trafficked them from their homes in West Bengal and Bangladesh.
Why would 17 young women leave the safety of their homes to make a leap in the dark towards a job offer from a stranger?
Sometimes, desperation makes danger look like safety.
Each of these women had watched their families shatter under repeated blows from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pressures of poverty, the risk of illness, the haunting shadow of hunger — these might have been some of the things that attracted each girl to a stranger’s promise of domestic work in another country.
“The money will be good,” the agent promised. “You’ll be able to provide for your family.”
Imagine their devastation when, after arriving, they were escorted into brothels. They would not be working in wealthy homes. They would not be earning money for their families. They would be bought and sold, like objects, like something lifeless and disposable.
The 13 traffickers must have been confident that no one would care enough to come looking for them — especially through the barrier created by continually climbing coronavirus cases.
They were wrong.
The Exodus Road’s Bravo team worked quickly and quietly with law enforcement, identifying the locations where the women were being held. Law enforcement and operatives stormed all three brothels on the same night in one spectacular rescue mission. They found 17 terrified young women with tears running down the cracking façade of their thick makeup.
When what you know of danger and safety has been turned inside out, how do you trust another set of supposed rescuers? It takes extraordinary resilience and courage. The survivors displayed exactly that when, through their fear, they chose to tell law enforcement officers their stories.
The traffickers tried to absolve themselves with lies and half-truths. This time, their manipulation didn’t work. This time, the power they’d abused was taken from them.
Currently, they are facing imprisonment of 10 years to life.
The instability created by COVID-19 continues to leave the already-vulnerable even more at risk. The Exodus Road’s teams of national operatives won’t stop until they’ve found more of these sons and daughters, continuing with the same tenacity that set 17 women free.
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