FORCED LABOR USED TO CONSTRUCT
AMERICAN EMBASSY IN IRAQ

PETER'S NEW YORK, Tuesday, August 7, 2007---It has become so difficult to procure recruits to work in Iraq these days that contractors are kidnapping laborers to make up for the shortfall.

At recent congressional hearings, a medical technician for contractor First Kuwaiti, Rory J. Mayberry, testified that Filipino workers who agreed to work in Dubai were instead  placed on a plane which, without their knowledge, carried them to Iraq. Once in Baghdad, they were forced to work on the construction of the American Embassy.

"They had no idea they were being sent to do construction work on the U.S. Embassy," Mayberry was quoted as saying in published reports.

Mayberry estimated that there were 51 workers on the plane taking them to Iraq. Philippine officials have only been able to identify 11 of these as Filipino, and have said that of these, six have already returned to the Philippines, although the government said it has been unable to track the six down.

Another former employee of First Kuwaiti, John Owens, told Congress that workers had no shoes and were forced to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and that 17 workers actually attempted an escape from the embassy construction site. The embassy is expected to cost U.S. taxpayers $600 million.

These cases, which have incidentally come to light, could be just the tip of the ice berg regarding forced labor. Enslavement and mistreatment likely go hand in hand, and the two practices are undoubtedly prevalent in Iraq.

Philippine nationals are banned from working in Iraq. The case of the mistreated workers has attracted the attention of the Philippine government, which has assigned a special envoy to investigate the alleged abuses.

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