10/18/2006

Slave Labor Building US Iraq Embassy

seven months into the job, he quit... Not one of the five different US embassy sites he had worked on around the world compared to the mess... Brutal and inhumane “I’ve never seen a project more fucked up. Every US labor law was broken.”

The Kuwait contractor building the US embassy in Baghdad stands accused by workers of labor trafficking and smuggling low-paid South Asians into Iraq. Still, the US State Department casts a blind eye on the complaints as it rushes to complete its most ambitious embassy project ever.

"The possibility that a company under a US State Department contract is trafficking and smuggling workers into a war zone is an insult the values that most Americans support and die for. The fact that the accused contractor, First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting, is building the $592-million US embassy – perhaps the most high-profile symbol of US presence in Iraq – is doubly astounding" says journalist David Phinney.

Based on interviews with sources that range from more than a half dozen former First Kuwaiti employees to numerous competing contractors, this latest CorpWatch investigation reveals complaints about the deceptive trafficking operation and the horrid working conditions faced by the people on-the-ground in Iraq.

ALLEGATIONS:
· Witnesses say First Kuwaiti has smuggled low-paid Asian workers on planes to Baghdad after taking away their passports and issuing airplane boarding passes for Dubai. Taking passports is a violation of US trafficking laws and contracting.
· First Kuwaiti has coerced low-paid workers to take jobs in Iraq against their wishes after recrutiers lured them to Kuwait for different jobs. (Interviews with Filipino workers who escaped Iraq available.)
· Although no journalist is allowed on embassy site, prostitutes are smuggled in by First Kuwaiti managers, according to former employees. Prostitutes are a "breech of security," says one former manager for the company.
· An American medic recommended that health clinics serving thousands of embassy construction workers be shut down for unsanitary conditions and then was fired. He also requested the investigation of two workers who may have died from mistreatment. Prescription pain killers were handed out like "candy" and workers were sent back to work on project, he says.
· There have been numerous beatings of workers by First Kuwaiti managers and labor strikes, say former employees. This reflects complaints of others who witnessed mistreatment on other projects.

Daily Kos: Trafficking in Humans

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