A year and a half after President Barack Obama issued an executive order outlawing human trafficking and forced labor on U.S. military bases, a five-month investigation by “Fault Lines” has found compelling evidence that these abuses remain pervasive at U.S. facilities in Afghanistan.
“Fault Lines” traveled to India, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan to trace the journey of a typical migrant worker seeking a job at a U.S. military base. We found Department of Defense subcontractors and their recruiters colluding to profit directly from exorbitant fees charged to job candidates, who are sometimes left with no choice but to work for six to 12 months to recoup those costs.
Over the past decade, the U.S. military has outsourced its overseas base-support responsibilities to private contractors, which have filled the lowest-paying jobs on military bases with third-country nationals, migrant workers who are neither U.S. citizens nor locals. As of January 2014, there were 37,182 third-country nationals working on bases in the U.S. Central Command region, which includes Afghanistan and Iraq — outnumbering both American and local contract workers.
“We’re making clear that American tax dollars must never, ever be used to support the trafficking of human beings. We will have zero tolerance. We mean what we say. We will enforce it.”
U.S. Taxpayer Dollars Facilitating Human Labor Trafficking on Military Bases
U.S. taxpayers are paying contractors who participate in human trafficking on U.S. military bases around the world. Thousands of poor, rural men are being held in warehouses for months without pay after promises of high salaries. These men are used to build and maintain U.S. military bases in combat zones, and they are being routinely exploited by a subcontractor system with little oversight.
Sindhu P. Kavinamannil and Sam W. McCahon are making a documentary about human labor trafficking. They came to POGO and recorded a podcast about their findings. Watch a short trailer for the podcast here. Stay tuned for the full podcast later this week.
POGO’s Nick Schwellenbach testified before Congress about how poor contract oversight can support human trafficking. Read the 5 key quotes from the hearing.
“I think the most appalling aspect that people miss is that virtually zero repercussions have happened to the individuals involved. Government agencies such as the State Department have not seriously tackled the issue by removing contracts from companies like DynCorp. I have heard of a few fines imposed recently, but in actuality, this is nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Those involved in my dismissal for doing my job and reporting criminal acts were rewarded and continue to work in management positions, earning tax-free high-dollar salaries at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.”
Kathryn Bolkovac, in a new interview with POGO about the recent film The Whistleblower, which is based on the real-life story of Bolkovac alleging that her fellow U.N. peace keepers in Bosnia were complicit in the rape and trafficking of underage girls.