*To protect the identity of the survivors, their names and image have been changed* 

Free for Life’s partner team in New Delhi, India noticed three young boys getting off an express train. They were wearing backpacks and looked confused, but were accompanied by older men. Noticing these red flags, the transit monitoring team stopped the group to ask about their travel plans. One of the men – Kaaru* – seemed to be the speaker for the entire group. He said the boys were traveling to Haryana for their studies. When the staff directly asked the boys – Naresh*, Jitender* and Suraj* – who lived in Haryana, they did not respond. Kaaru stepped in to say the boys’ father and uncle live in Haryana. 

When the team asked for their travel documents, the boys looked very nervous and said they didn’t have any. When the team asked Kaaru to contact the boys’ family to confirm the travel plans, he called several different numbers and said no one was answering. At this point, with suspicion mounting, the transit monitors separated the boys from Kaaru and individually asked them more questions. They educated the boys about human trafficking and how people will lie to try to gain their trust.

Naresh finally told the team the truth – he said the boys were not related and they were traveling to Haryana for jobs that Kaaru had arranged for them. He promised them a good salary, and since their families were struggling financially, they agreed. None of the boys had worked before because of their young age, and they did not know the address of where they would be working after arriving in Haryana. After Jitender and Suraj confirmed the story, they told the team they had only known Kaaru for two days – but he was from a neighboring village and known to their families. After unsuccessfully trying to bribe the transit monitoring team to release the children to his care, Kaaru fled the scene. The boys are currently safe at a shelter until their families can be contacted and the team can confirm they weren’t involved in this high-risk situation.

Stories like these are very common to our partner transit monitoring team – a promise of good employment is often all it takes to convince an individual to travel long distances with a person they do not know well. FFLI’s border and transit monitoring program is unique because interception can occur at a critical moment before a person is fully controlled or exploited. For Naresh, Jitender and Suraj, we are so thankful they are safe, with freedom and childhood restored. 

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