In this posting I will be addressing the issue of migrant workers in Iraq. I will talk briefly about their conditions before the 2003 war on Iraq. They entered Iraq legally with approval of the Iraqi government and hence were protected by the Iraqi labor law.
After the 2003 occupation migrant workers were “smuggled” into Iraq by contractors working for the US military. Some of them entered Iraq flying directly to American bases in Iraq. Others were taken directly from airport to US installations without going through the Iraqi passport control. Similar procedure is used for those entering Iraq by road.
Entering Iraq “illegally” and working at foreign military bases denies those people the legal protection of the Iraqi laws. American labor laws do not apply to them either. Some of them worked for KBR through “five levels of subcontractors and employment agents”. That leaves them into the “NO LAW” land.
Poor labors from third world countries signed contract to work in the gulf from there they were trafficked illegally where actually prisoners at US military installations. According to the UN IOM their working condition could be summed up "They are very much exploited -- working 16 hours a day, seven days a week; doing menial jobs, domestic servitude with no possibility of getting out of that situation for several reasons. The first one is they are in some cases kept under lock and key. The second reason is that their passports have been confiscated and the third reason is that most of these migrants are completely disoriented," One Indian worker told the WP that sometimes were “treated like a kind of animal”
The US Congress looked into human trafficking in Iraq. The hearing confirmed that slave labor was used in building the US embassy in Baghdad. The fact that SALVES build the symbol of Freedom in Baghdad makes America’s Freedom a JOKE.
Human trafficking, mistreatment of migrant workers, poor living conditions (4 to a bed!), lack of water, shortage of food, confiscation of passports…etc was reported in December 2008 by CNN. I am sure it is continuing today.
American Slaves were freed 1862. It is regrettable that the same America introduces slavery 142 years later into a country that had no slavery!!! I am sure that we will need someone to end SLAVARY in Iraq. For sure, also, it is not going to be the Americans. I am sure that Abraham Lincoln would be turning in his grave now.
Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s Iraq went into huge and unprecedented construction boom. Construction companies from all over the world were implementing contracts in Iraq. They imported labors from nearly every corner of the world. Iraq insisted that those companies respect and implement the Iraqi labor law concerning their projects in Iraq.
Due to that construction and economic boom some 3-4 million Egyptian migrant workers moved to work in Iraq. Contrary to the rest of the Arab Gulf States migrant workers in Iraq were free to “jump” from one contractor to another without having to pay penalties or leave the country.
Migrant workers rights were protected by the Iraq labor laws and those were in line with the international labor guidelines and rules.
Things took a bad turn since the occupation in 2003. American military contractors with billions of dollars contracts ranging from providing meals and doing laundry for American service personal to building and maintaining US bases had to hire “third country nationals” to do the job. American KBR directly or indirectly hired more than 100000 TCN to fulfill its obligations.
To induce those TCN labor to serve in the war zone some were tricked into believing that they will be working in Kuwait, Dubai, or Jordan. Once arriving they were shipped to Iraq. In some cases their passports were withheld by employers. Being locked at military bases they were not allowed to contact their embassies and had nowhere to go or turn to for help.
Wikipedia had this on TCN conditions “The accommodations, security, and treatment of TCNs can vary greatly from the way that U.S. and multinational coalition personnel are treated. Their contracts often require them to work for one year continuously without a break to return to their home country. Many TCN contractors have also been lured by preemployment deals that have guaranteed them the job as long as they give a percentage of their pay to an 'employment agent' or 'representative'. TCN housing compounds are generally in less secure areas outside of the main base.”
The deplorable conditions of those TCN were brought to attention in May 2004. CNN reported that the US is to “Probe into Iraq trafficking claims”. The New York Times also reported “Indian Contract Workers in Iraq Complain of Exploitation”. The Washington Post said “Many Foreign Laborers Receive Inferior Pay, Food and Shelter” and that an “Underclass of Workers Created in Iraq”.
Many newspaper reports, of human trafficking of labor to work for US military in Iraq, were written in around the world. Papers from Sari Lanka, Philippians, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and others all reported on this problem. They also reported of demonstration against this 21st century form of exploitation and slavery.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman Jean-Philippine Chauzy "They are very much exploited -- working 16 hours a day, seven days a week; doing menial jobs, domestic servitude with no possibility of getting out of that situation for several reasons. The first one is they are in some cases kept under lock and key. The second reason is that their passports have been confiscated and the third reason is that most of these migrants are completely disoriented,"
The US military contractors are not the only ones using slave labors in Iraq. The US State Department which is responsible for combating human trafficking and slavery around the world, oddly enough, is using slave labor to build its new Embassy in Baghdad.
US Rep. Henry Waxman chaired a committee in the US House of Representative investigating the construction of the US embassy in Baghdad. Rep Waxman opening statement and Rep Tierney's Opening statement both addressed the human trafficking at the site. Committee witness Owens opening statement and witness Mayberry's Opening statement shed light on the human trafficking to the site. Questions asked by Rep. Tierney of the witness shows the miserable working conditions. Ironically it also shows that the US State Department did not investigate the human trafficking allegation as it should
Human trafficking by American military contractors is still continuing problem in Iraq. In Dec. 2008 CNN showed this report Iraqi police surround 'slave labor' camp. The US McClatchy had another report Military contractor in Iraq holds foreign workers in warehouses. Worth seeing.