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Department of Defense Responds to Labor Trafficking in Iraq

Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Washington, DC
June 5, 2006

Trafficking in persons is modern-day slavery, involving victims who are forced, defrauded or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation. Annually, about 800,000 people—mostly women and children—are trafficked across national borders. This number does not count the millions of people trafficked within their own countries.

A 2006 Department of Defense (DOD) investigation, prompted by late 2005 media allegations of labor trafficking in Iraq, identified a number of abuses, some of them considered widespread, committed by DOD contractors or subcontractors of third country national (TCN) workers in Iraq. Some of these abuses are indicative of trafficking in persons, and include: illegal confiscation of TCNs' passports; deceptive hiring practices and excessive recruitment fees; substandard living conditions; and circumvention of Iraqi immigration procedures. The TCNs are largely low-skilled workers from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

The Department of Defense has responded swiftly with a number of measures to closely monitor the hiring and employment of foreign laborers.  In April 2006, General George W. Casey, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, issued specific labor guidelines to all Defense contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chief among those measures was a mandate that all contractors cease the practice of holding or withholding employees' passports.  Furthermore, DOD contracts will include the following guidelines to prevent trafficking in persons:

  • All employees of Defense Department contractors or subcontractors will be provided a signed copy of their employment contract that defines the terms of their employment and compensation.
  • Contractors and subcontractors must be licensed recruiting firms.
  • Recruiting firms must not charge employees illegal recruitment fees.

Under the policy, contractors and subcontractors are required to comply with personal living space standards, international and host country laws for work visas, and transit and entry procedures.  This response works to ensure the U.S. employs a “zero  tolerance” policy against human trafficking domestically and abroad.

 Excerpt from Trafficking in Persons Report 2006.


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