DHAKA, Bangladesh - Bangladesh coast guards said Monday they had rescued 46 children living as "bonded labour" on fish farms in the Sundarbans mangrove forest.
The children, aged between 12 and 18, were lured from their home villages by brokers and sold on, said Lokman Hakim, who led the rescue operation.
"We rescued 46 of them in the last two days. These boys were used as slaves with no salaries, no rights and no way to escape," he told AFP.
Authorities launched a crackdown in 2006 to rescue hundreds of children sold into bonded labour - when workers are saddled with impossible debts - on fish processing farms in Bangladesh's remote south.
Hakim said the fish farms, which supply dry fish to the mainland and some ethnic Bangladeshi markets in the Middle East, are hugely dependent on child labour.
"We know dry-fishing is an important industry. But they can't be allowed to use children to execute their jobs," he said.
Although child labour is banned in Bangladesh, charities and rights groups have said millions of children are still employed on brickfields, on farms, as domestic help and in the construction industry.