UN denounces plight of foreign workers in Iraq

Posted by admin on Dec 12th, 2008

BAGHDAD (AFP) — The UN special representative in Iraq denounced on  Thursday the plight of foreigners brought in with promises of work and then left without jobs, singling out the case of Baghdad’s international airport. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) “takes the allegations of human trafficking by contractors in Iraq very seriously and is concerned about their predicament,” Staffan de Mistura said in a statement.

“The case in BIAP (the airport) is one that has made public headlines but we are aware of other cases, some of which have reached relevant courts, and we hope will also be addressed in accordance with international labour law standards,” he added.

On December 4, The Times of London reported that 1,000 migrant workers who had been promised jobs at catering facilities on US bases and who were being kept at the airport staged a mini-riot in protest at poor
treatment and the prospect of being sent home without pay.

It said men from several Asian countries had been brought to Baghdad over the past three months to work for Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor to KBR Inc of the United States.

Following the protest 500 of the workers were sent home, while the rest were said to be living in difficult conditions.

The UNAMI official responsible for human rights, Olivier Bercault, said around 1,000 people from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Pakistan had arrived in Iraq four months ago expecting to work for 400 dollars (300 euros) a month.

He said intermediaries had paid between 2,000 and 5,000 dollars on their behalf, sums that they would be required to reimburse, but were not given work.

Bercault said the US army and KBR, a leading contractor for the US Defence Department, had opened an enquiry into the situation.

Thousands of people from south Asia and the Far East are working on US military bases in catering, transport and other logistical jobs.

Comments are closed.