Nepalese Girls Rescued from Orphan Home

13/09/2011 - Authorities in India, in cooperation with civil society partners, have rescued 23 Nepalese girls, who will hopefully be soon reunited with their families.

Indian authorities have rescued 23 Nepalese girls from a privately-run orphanage in Sulur and taken them to a house in Marialaya before they are to go to a facility in Gorakhpur.

Rescued on Thursday last week from the Michael Job centre in Sulur, all the girls are aged eight to seventeen. District authorities are doing their best to care for the girls, after they complained of the quality of care by their caregivers. In specific, The Hindu reported that the girls complained of inadequate facilities and poor food quality. Some orphanage staff, however, attribute the discontent to delays in their return home.

On Monday, police officers ended a protest involving some 500 activists demonstrating outside the orphanage. The activists were calling for an inquiry into the institutions' operations, and any possible links between the school it is affiliated with and human trafficking.

Nepal is mostly a source country for men, women, girls and boys trafficked for forced labour and work in the commercial sex industry. Some women a girls may be forced into sex trafficking internally and in India or the Middle-East. Others may work as domestic workers, beggars, circus performers or in the pornographic industry.

The Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation is an affiliate of the Social Welfare Council of Nepal. Members of the Foundation arrived in Coimbatore (of which Sulur is in the outskirts) following reports that 40 Nepalese girls had gone missing and had come to live in the city as orphans via international human trafficking.

One orphanage official, however, stated that the children were brought there to gain a better life and education during the Maoist conflict. Local media reported that eye witnesses did not suspect foul play on the part of the orphanage. Parents are reported to have been approached by an agency promising to give the children a free education in India. When there was no communication from their children afterward, parents became concerned and contacted the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation. Indeed, yesterday, the Times of India reported that the orphanage claimed that they were unaware the children weren't orphans – that they came to Sulur through a Nepalese organization called Himalayan Orphanage.

With the protection of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Coimbatore and the Foundation, the girls were taken to Don Bosco Anbu Illam. But, this home was meant for boys and, at the intervention of the district administration and Department of Social Defence, the girls were transferred to a government-run orphanage. On Sunday, they were brought to the Kovai Marialaya home in Ganapathy. They will leave tomorrow for the CWC in Gorakhpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh. From there, the girls will be sent home to Nepal after child protection workers have contacted their parents.

In a recent development, the CWC and the district administration have given the Sulur orphanage 15 days to present records detailing how the Nepalese children came into their care.