Protection of migrant children

Odisha et Telangana / India

Drawn by the high demand for labour in brickworks on the Indian subcontinent, children set off alone on a dangerous 1000-km journey, at the end of which they find themselves in inhumane lodging and working conditions. Terre des Hommes Switzerland offers them protection and support.

With disconcerting speed, she takes a block of clay soil, places it in a rectangular mould, flattens it down with her small hands to remove the excess, takes it out of the mould, and places the brick thus formed beside another. In the blazing heat, 9-year-old Kavita repeats these steps up to 300 times a day.

She left school and travelled 1000 km by train, alone, not knowing exactly where she was headed, hoping to earn enough to survive. She does not know that she has been trapped. Today, she works 12 hours a day in a brick factory in Telangana to pay back the advance paid in her village by an unscrupulous middleman.

Just like Kavita, every season, many children from the disadvantaged villages in Orissa leave their families, neighbours and friends, only to find themselves working and living in subhuman conditions. They are drawn by the promise of jobs in the brick industry, flourishing in a country where new houses and offices are built around the clock. 

The high demand for bricks forces men, women and children to produce more and more, in violation of labour laws, human rights and the rights of children. Exploited, malnourished, living in an unhygienic environment, deprived of hobbies and school, the children are the primary victims of illness, as well as physical and sexual abuse.

They are also highly vulnerable during the long trek to their destination: travelling without tickets, ending up in a state where they do not speak the language, they are often arrested and mistreated. Some die of dehydration or asphyxiation in the overcrowded trains.

Upon returning to their village, many no longer want to return to school and have forgotten what they had learned before leaving.


What Terre des Hommes Switzerland does

Violation of the rights of children is particularly serious in the case of children who migrate to work in brickworks. Terre des Hommes Switzerland works with the Indian organisation Youth Service Center (YSC) to protect children from 15 villages in the State of Orissa migrating to Telangana. We are present throughout the children’s migratory journeys: in their home village, in the stations which mark their route, as well as in the brickworks which employ them. We also aim to prevent their migration, by encouraging the children to remain in or return to school.
Terre des Hommes Suisse acts on multiple fronts.

1. Raising awareness in communities of the risks of migration and coordinating monitoring of children in the villages

      Educating families about the risks and effects of migration for their children;

      Identifying the causes of child migration;

      Forming committees to protect children in the villages;

      Creating a digital register to identify children and follow them on their migratory journey.

2. Preserving the safety and health of children in migration

      Along the railways: informing rail staff, visiting detained children;

      In the brickworks: visiting sites and providing help to sick children or those carrying out forced labour.

3. Educating migrant children on their rights

      Information on the rights of the child, and on the risks of migration (violence, abuse, negligence, exploitation) to prepare children to confront them;

      Promotion of the creation of associations for migrant children.

4. Preventing migratory risks and child labour through schools