More than 300 Christian forced laborers in the Pakistani province of Punjab have been freed by authorities, according to a Tuesday report by the BBC.
The brick-making workers included women and children who were freed following police raids throughout various sites of the Sheikhupura district in the province. The liberation efforts were made after more than a dozen petitions were submitted in the province's capital at the Lahore High Court.
On Tuesday, some of the workers came before the four judges of the high court and told of the situations they experienced. One worker said they earned very little for their work, ($2.50 for making 2,000 bricks,) and also that they were subjected to physical abuse to prevent them from leaving.
"You are free citizens and have the right to do work of your choice, without ever being subjected to forced labour," declared the court as it ordered the workers' release.
The director of a non-governmental aid group, Joseph Francis, said that forced labor was common in suburban and rural areas of Pakistan. He said that poor Christian families were the most common victims in Punjab.
Workers, including children, must often knead mud through their hands, molding it into small shapes that will eventually become bricks. The court complaints said that the forced labor was a violation of the nation's constitutional rights.
In an interview regarding forced labor last year, Muktar Zaman Afrid, a medical specialist, exressed concern that the brick manufacturing process could affect the growth of adolescents, according to the BBC.
During the court proceedings, the legal aid center of the organization supported the court petitioners. Francis added that although the workers were now free, there were still many obstacles they had to overcome
"This may not eliminate the problem altogether, but will add to the victims' confidence and encourage them to find better means of livelihood," he said.