by David Phinney
Monday August 20th 2018

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Investigating the Embassy Contractor
on Allegations of Labor Trafficking

The news that the US Justice Department is investigating the Kuwaiti contractor now completing the $592-million US embassy in Baghdad because of allegations about labor trafficking was first reported by Iraqslogger. One week later, The Wall Street Journal published the news on page one.
The Iraqslogger piece also covers in depth the US State Department Inspector’s General report of the embassy, which many former Americans who worked on the project portray as a whitewash. The Iraqslogger story was republished by Alternet and Counterpunch prior to The Wall Street Journal.
The US Justice Department began contacting sources and possible witnesses three or four weeks ago. Investigators claimed they were interested in allegations about the embassy contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, pressuring workers to work in Iraq against their will or knowledge.
Part of the inquiry regards allegations that migrant workers were handed boarding passes in Kuwait for Dubai before flying directly to Baghdad. Several witnesses say they boarded such planes with 50 or so other workers. That story came out in October.
But allegations have also been made against First Kuwaiti for other questionable incidents. Workers from the Philippines and Nepal have accused the company previously of pressuring them to work in Iraq under US military contracts.
The Pentagon found evidence in 2006 that labor trafficking of poor migrant workers was taking place under US military contracts but has yet to make public the names of companies engaged in the practice or penalize the firms.
The indications included deceptive, bait-and-switch hiring practices (i.e., spend your life savings on travel to Kuwait for a job and then be told that the job is in Iraq) and charging recruiting fees that indebted low-paid migrant workers for many months or even years to their employers. Contractors were also accused of providing substandard, crowded sleeping quarters, serving poor food and circumventing Iraqi immigration procedures.
The embassy contractor, First Kuwaiti, is a major subcontractor and prime contractor in Iraq to the Pentagon and the US State Department and has been accused of similar practices for several years by workers.
Evidence of the Pentagon investigation, which also is not public, is here and here.
That should help get people up to speed.

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