Embassy builders in Iraq accused of human trafficking
The Department of Justice is investigating whether or not a Kuwaiti construction firm contracted to build the US Embassy in Iraq has carried out human trafficking with its laborers, according to a report in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.
"The Department of Justice launched the probe of First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. after former employees alleged that workers at the company were told they were being sent to Dubai, only to wind up in Iraq instead... First Kuwaiti confiscated the workers' passports, so they were unable to depart Baghdad, these people said," wrote Yochi J. Dreazen.
The Kuwaiti company denied a Justice Department investigation was going on, and said the State Department had already found no violations of the workers' rights.
Indeed, the State Department's Inspector General reported that there was "no evidence of Trafficking in Persons violations...[workers] were being paid and had the ability to quit at any time...and return to their home country."
Still, Dreazen writes that the charges may be credible.
"While Justice may ultimately clear the company of the present allegations, its involvement suggests they are serious enough to merit investigation," he wrote.
Iraqis were not hired by First Kuwaiti for the $592 million project out of fear that they could compromise the project's security.
"Instead, it hired nationals from poor countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt and Pakistan," the Journal notes.
Dreazen's full report can be read at this link.