Two American civilian contractors who worked on a massive U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad told Congress yesterday that foreign laborers were deceptively recruited and trafficked to Iraq to toil at the site, where they experienced physical abuse and substandard working conditions.
First Kuwaiti's labor practices are under investigation by the Justice Department, which is looking into allegations that foreign employees were brought into Iraq under false pretenses and were unable to leave because the company had confiscated their passports.
First Kuwaiti has termed those allegations "ludicrous." The company declined the committee's invitation to testify or provide officials for interviews, said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the oversight committee.
Foreign workers lived in tightly packed trailers and had "insufficient equipment and basic needs -- stuff like shoes and gloves," Owens said.
They worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and made as little as $240 a month, he said. They were "verbally and physically abused" and had their salaries docked for petty infractions, he added.
Rory J. Mayberry, an emergency medical technician who worked briefly at the embassy site under a subcontract, testified that he was asked by First Kuwaiti managers to escort 51 Filipinos through the Kuwait airport and onto a flight to Baghdad. However, "all of our tickets said we were going to Dubai," he said, adding that a First Kuwaiti manager instructed him not to tell any of the Filipinos that they were going to Baghdad.
He said the men were basically "kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work on the U.S. Embassy." Their passports had been confiscated, and they were driven away on buses after landing in Baghdad, then were "smuggled into the Green Zone," he said.
Words fail me, other than to note that you know good and damn well that the Kuwaitis got rich on our tax money by doing this egregious bullshit.