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Setting Victims Of Human Trafficking Free

2017 Rescue Stories

Setting Victims Of Human Trafficking Free

Caught Red-Handed, Cybersex Trafficking Suspects Run from Police

MANILA, PHILIPPINES, October 20, 2017

Police chased the suspects along the main road as people shopped and dined along this busy street in Manila. The police caught up and arrested the two men on the run. Their crime: selling girls for sexual exploitation.


A 17-year old girl was also rescued during this sting operation by IJM and the Philippine National Police on October 15. Pictured above with an IJM social worker, she is now safe in a government shelter and will receive care to help her heal.

It all began with a tip from the FBI, who conducted their annual sweep to arrest human traffickers this month. Working off FBI information, police posing as customers approached the alleged traffickers, who offered a 17-year-old girl to be sexually exploited for about $175.

When they realized they had been caught red-handed in a ruse, they started to run.

These two men are suspected of running a cybersex trafficking ring. Authorities believe the Filipino men have been exploiting girls, primarily aged 10 to 15 years old, for the past five years. They would offer minors to child abusers in person, sell abusive images online, and set up live shows so predators could direct the exploitation from afar. Other foreign law enforcement had recently shared referrals pointing to the same men as prime suspects.

“The operation was not easy,” according to PCI Michael Virtudazo of the Philippine National Police Women & Children Protection Center’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (PNP-WCPC). He continued, “But the arrest of [these men] is a remarkable accomplishment of the PNP-WCPC and IJM, which put an end to [their] network of several social media accounts offering live sex shows, production of child pornography, and other child abuse materials.”

In a four-day period, the FBI sweep led to 120 suspects arrested for human trafficking crimes throughout the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and Southeast Asia.

Two Young Teens Rescued As Visayas Anti-Trafficking Police Lead Tenth Operation This Year


CEBU, PHILIPPINES, September 14, 2017

IJM helped Philippine authorities rescue two girls, 14 and 15 years old, from cybersex trafficking over the weekend. Two suspects were arrested for allegedly live-streaming sexual abuse of children to foreigners who paid to watch via webcam. Three more children, including an 8-year-old girl, were found and removed from the home to determine whether they too were victimized.

The home where the children were being exploited was made of woven bamboo and found materials, tucked away in a village overlooking the busy city of Cebu. The rescue team of IJM staff, government social workers, and police from Cebu City and the Visayas regional anti-trafficking unit climbed the hill on Saturday morning, September 9. They seized evidence and arrested the two Filipino suspects.

Social workers provided bright scarves, called sarongs, to shield the children from onlookers who gathered to see what was happening. The children are now safe at a temporary shelter, and IJM will support them as they are placed in longer term aftercare.

“The proliferation of online sex exploitation cases in the Philippines is indeed alarming. We have been receiving referrals from different foreign law enforcement agencies, and WCPC [Women and Children Protection Center—the anti-trafficking unit] conducts validation, investigation and case build up. Unlike any other exploitation/abuse against children, the involvement of the internet makes OSEC [online sexual exploitation of children] a very complex crime. Nevertheless WCPC and its partners continue to exhaust all efforts to put a stop to this horrible crime against our children,” shared Colonel Sheila Portento, of the Philippine National Police WCPC.

“There is hope for the children of the Visayas Region in the Philippines because the WCPC [anti-trafficking unit] has already conducted 10 operations against online sexual exploitation of children in the Visayas this year, rescuing over 20 victims and arresting more than 10 suspects,” said John Tanagho, IJM Cebu Field Office Director.

“Police operations deter crime and protect children from further abuse, and when WCPC is fully staffed it will be an unstoppable force to END online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines.”

Relentless Police and IJM Staff Rescue 15-Year-Old Girl from a Brothel


Kolkata, India, June 07, 2017

After several attempts at rescue, a teenage girl has finally been freed from a dangerous red-light district in Kolkata, and she now has a chance at healing and peace.

Local authorities had first tried to rescue her nearly three weeks ago, after learning she was underage and being forcibly held in a high-end brothel. During the initial attempted rescue operation, however, she ran away in fear. Many trafficking victims are brainwashed to believe police will arrest or abuse them; this is how traffickers keep children from ever seeking help.

IJM Kolkata staff and anti-trafficking police continued to search for her relentlessly, and even alerted the IJM team in Mumbai—another sex trafficking hotspot—in case this girl was sold to another brothel across the country.

Last week, the team successfully found her again in the red-light district and brought her to safety. We are slowly learning more about her story.





Police believe she is just 15 years old, and that she was trafficked from Bangladesh and sold for sex for months in the brothel. She suffered regular physical and verbal abuse from the brothel owners and from customers.

Authorities also arrested the madam running the brothel—a woman who had previously been arrested in two previous IJM cases from 2012 and 2014. Each time, she was released on bail and exploited other girls. IJM staff will work with local officials to fight any future bail attempts so she can finally be held accountable for her alleged crimes.

Saptarshi Biswas, IJM Kolkata’s director of justice solutions, says, “The operation was executed smoothly under the skillful leadership of the Officer-in-Charge of the Kolkata Police Anti-Trafficking Unit. This rescue was a great example of proactive policing to reduce the crime of sex trafficking.”

The rescued girl is now safe at a secure shelter home, where she will receive counseling and emotional support as her case progresses. She’s just beginning her journey of restoration and—with help from our supporters and NGO partners—IJM will walk by her side until she feels confident and whole again.

International Justice Mission protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. IJM partners with local authorities to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Our team has helped local officials combat sex trafficking in Kolkata since 2006, and together we've brought hundreds of girls and young women to freedom.

Rescue Operation Frees 15-Year-Olds from Sex Trafficking


MUMBAI, INDIA, November 09, 2017

On Tuesday evening, November 7, IJM supported the Social Services branch of Mumbai’s police force on a rescue operation to free two teen girls from sexual exploitation at a private home.

One of the girls had been given a fake I.D. claiming she was 22 years old, but told authorities she was just 15. The other girl did not know her age, but is likely also 15.

Both girls come from the Bedia community, where women are expected to follow a tradition of prostitution. In this case, the two teens were being sold for sex by a pair of women who would arrange private customers in an unsuspecting apartment. One would keep the girls at the house, while the other trafficker would escort customers to their secret location for sex.

“These suburban residences through which private networks work are the new modus operandi of sex traffickers, unlike the conventional hotspot areas where brothels operate,” explains Michael Yangad, IJM’s director of operations in Mumbai. “These networks function through word of mouth, and are harder to uncover as opposed to the conventional location based prostitution.”

Authorities arrested both suspects on Wednesday morning and have filed charges under India’s anti-trafficking and child protection laws. They will continue investigating their trafficking network to build a solid case in court.

After the rescue operation, IJM social workers and police officials escorted the girls to a victim-friendly space at the Child Welfare Committee, where they could share their stories safely. In the next few days, they will stay at a short-term shelter home before moving to a longer-term home to begin trauma counseling.

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