About 1,000 Asian men who were hired by a Kuwaiti subcontractor to the U.S. military have been confined for as long as three months in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport without money or a place to work.
Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor to KBR, an engineering, construction and services company, hired the men, who’re from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. On Tuesday, they staged a march outside their compound to protest their living conditions.
“It’s really dirty,” a Sri Lankan man told McClatchy, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he still wants to work for Najlaa. “For all of us, there are about 12 toilets and about 10 bathrooms. The food - it’s three half-liter (one pint) bottles of water a day. Bread, cheese and jam for breakfast. Lunch is a small piece of meat, potato and rice. Dinner is rice and dal, but it’s not dal,” he said, referring to the Indian lentil dish.
KBR is trying to say they didn’t know about it, but people on the ground there in Iraq are calling bullshit on that one:
The conditions in which the men have been held appear to violate guidelines the U.S. military handed down in 2006 that urged contractors to deter human trafficking to the war zone by shunning recruiters that charged excessive fees. The guidelines also defined “minimum acceptable” living spaces - 50 square feet per person - and required companies to fulfill the pledges they made to employees in contracts.
A U.S. military spokesman for the Multi-National Force-Iraq referred questions to KBR, a Texas-based former subsidiary of Halliburton. The spokesman said that the American military wasn’t aware of the warehouses until McClatchy and the Times of London began asking questions about it on Monday.
Some of the men who’ve been living in the warehouses said that KBR representatives visited the site two weeks ago. They said Najlaa held their passports until the KBR inspection, which Najlaa officials denied. Seizing passports is a violation of the U.S. military’s 2006 instructions to contractors.
KBR didn’t answer direct questions about the warehouses but issued a two-paragraph statement. “When KBR becomes aware of potential violations of international laws regarding trafficking in persons, we work, within our authority, to remediate the problem and report the matter to proper authorities. KBR then works with authorities to rectify the matter,” it said.
KBR’s history in Iraq makes their company press release suspect. They have poisoned American soldiers, electrocuted them and overcharged the living shit out of the Federal Government for services rendered, just to name a few of their heinous transgressions.