A Kuwaiti subcontractor to major US military contractor KBR has been holding around 1,000 men from South Asia in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport for months without pay or employment. The workers staged a recent protest march outside the compound to complain about squalid living conditions.
The laborers paid more than $2,000 each to get to Iraq with the promise of jobs earning between $600 and $800 a month. Instead of jobs, they found themselves confined to guarded compounds, given three meager meals a day, and no work to do.
The company, Najlaa International Catering Service, defended the treatment of the men, saying it was company policy to only pay employees once they started their jobs, and that the work simply never materialized. The protest was ended when Najlaa security promised to pay the men on Tuesday of this week. According to the workers who the media has managed to contact, they still haven’t seen any money.
Reports of the abuse of laborers by foreign contractors is not uncommon in Iraq. Indeed, the main contractor on the $600 million State Department project to build the US embassy in Baghdad was accused of misleading foreign workers sent to work on the project and abusing and threatening them after they arrived.