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Committee acts to stop contractors from enabling human trafficking

Joe Davidson – (Washington Post) – June 27, 2012 – A Senate committee wants to make sure Uncle Sam doesn’t act as an inadvertent enabler for international human traffickers and pimps.

With a voice vote Wednesday, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee preliminarily approved legislation designed, as its title says, to “End Trafficking in Government Contracting.”

When contractors submit proposals for government work overseas, they don’t include provisions for trading in humans or indentured servitude. But that apparently has been the case with some private firms operating on U.S. military bases in foreign countries.

“Modern-day slavery by government contractors — unknowingly funded by American taxpayers — is unconscionable and intolerable,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), prime sponsor of the bill. “Current law prohibiting human trafficking is insufficient and ineffective, failing to prevent or punish abuses.”

In contrast to all the debate about federal employees, too little attention has been paid to more than 70,000 people, from countries such as Bangladesh, Fiji and the Philippines, who work for military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, says information provided by Blumenthal’s office.

Some of them are lured by promises of lucrative jobs, only to be paid next to nothing and forced to go heavily in debt from labor brokers. Their living conditions often are shameful and their passports are sometimes confiscated.

Blumenthal said the legislation would “stop egregious human rights abuses on U.S. military bases.” Under the bill, companies, with contracts worth $1 million or more would certify they have plans and procedures to prevent trafficking. The plans, according to Blumenthal’s Web site, should cover such things as “destroying or confiscating passports; misrepresenting wages or work location; using labor brokers who charge exorbitant recruiting fees; and activities that support the procurement of commercial sex acts.”

The committee’s action was preliminary because it did not have a quorum. The House has already passed companion legislation.

When the bill was introduced, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a cosponsor, said “American tax dollars should never be allowed to subsidize human trafficking. The exploitation of persons recruited by unscrupulous labor brokers and subcontractors who misrepresent pay, charge excessive recruiting fees, and often confiscate immigration and identity documents, cannot be tolerated in overseas contingency operations under contracts funded by American taxpayers.”

The legislation requires a federal official with “credible evidence” of trafficking or other prohibited activities to notify the agency’s inspector general. The IG then must investigate and take appropriate action, which could include stopping payments to the contractor.

Anyone found guilty of using false statements or making bogus promises to recruit or hire people outside the United States to work on a government contract could get five years in prison.

The bipartisan legislation stems from a Commission on Wartime Contracting report that said abuses in contracting “undermine the United States’ reputation abroad.”

A stain on Sam’s name is the least of the injuries.

During a trip to Iraq in April 2009, the commission found that:

  • Contractors withheld pay from third-country workers until their contract term was completed, so they couldn’t quit and go home.
  • One company paid Ugandan guards $700 a month, $1,000 less than the government paid the company. “This $1,000 difference exceeds even the most generous indirect contract costs,” the commission said. Unsaid: The guards still would have been exploited if they got the full $1,700.
  • Many of the foreign workers were not given promised 30-day vacations.

The commission found similar conditions the next year in Afghanistan. Some workers were lured with promises of good paying work in Kuwait, only to find themselves taken to low paying jobs in Afghanistan.

“Numerous Philippine nationals arrived at Kandahar Air Field, but only two had jobs lined up,” the commission said. “Others stayed on the military base looking for work. The air field commander told the Commission that when he first arrived, ‘a couple thousand’ unauthorized third-country nationals were on base.”

Clearly that’s not a good security situation. And it’s not a decent way to treat people.

“The exploitation of people through human trafficking is completely contrary to the values of freedom and human rights that America stands for,” said committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), cosponsor of the legislation. “Our ability to encourage other countries to stop trafficking around the globe is undermined if we don’t stop it under contracts that are paid for by our own tax dollars.” (Click HERE for original article)

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5 Comments

  1. Comment by CAMP ARIFJAN and 386 ECONS WATCH:

    BOTH OF THESE BASES IN KUWAIT ALLOW DoD Contractors and Kuwait businesses violation US standards and Federal Acquisition guidelines for the definition of HUMAN TRAFFICKING; WHICH IS THE CONFINSCATION AND LOCKING UP OF PASSPORTS.

    WHICH 2 CONTRACTING OFFICERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CONTRACTING OFFICERS TO NOT ONLY ENFORCE THE DEBAREMENT OF DoD CONTRACTORS LIKE SMI AND TRADELINKS, BOTH OF WHOM LOCK UP EMPLOYEES PASSPORTS.

    AND COLONEL ROGERS AND MAJOR HANNAN; THE DEFINITION IS ANY EMPLOYEE OF THE COMPANY. THOSE PASSPORTS ARE NOT ON THE PERSONS OF THOSE COMPANIES – THEY ARE LOCKED IN COMPANY SAFES. YOU HAVE THE DUTY AND RESPONSIBLITY AS THE CONTRACTING COMMANDERS OF THE 408TH AND 386 ECONS TO REQUEST OF DCAA AND DCMA ( YOU KNOW – THE AUDIT AGENCIES WHO STOOD BEFORE US AT THE CONTRACTORS CONVENTION AT THE HILTON – EXCEPT 386 ECONS MISSED THAT EVENT FOR SOME REASON ) YOU HAVE THE DUTY TO ASK THAT A RANDOM AUDIT BE DONE OF THE EMPLOYEES OF THOSE COMPANIES HOLDING CONTRACTS AND ALL TIERS TO FIND OUT IF INDEED PASSPORTS ARE BEING CONFINSCATED. THEN YOU HAVE THE DUTY TO WRITE A WRITTEN ENTRY IN THEIR CONTRACT FILE AND RE-INSPECT. VIOLATORS SHOULD HAVE THEIR CONTRACTS REMOVED AND RE-COMPETED ( DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT IS 408TH ? )

    BUSINESSES THAT ARE CONFINSCATING PASSPORTS ALSO SHOULD BE SUSPENDED UNTIL PASSPORTS ARE RETURNED. THE CONTRACTING COMMANDERS HAVE THE DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT PLACES FREQUENTED BY U.S. MILITARY FORCES ALSO ARE NOT TRAFFICKING THEIR EMPLOYEES.

    THOSE PLACES THAT THE COMMANDERS OF ALI AL SALEM AND CAMP ARIFJAN SHOULD LIST AS OFF LIMITS AND TELL THOSE BUSINESS OWNERS TO REMOVE THEIR BUSINESSES FROM THE BASES ARE:

    STARBUCKS
    MC DONALDS
    KFC
    BURGER KING
    DUNKIN DONUTS

    HOTELS THAT ARE CONFINSCATING AND LOCKING UP PASSPORTS AND THAT ALSO SHOULD GO ON THE OFF LIMITS PLACE ARE:

    CROWNE PLAZA
    MOVENPIC

    THE LIST WILL BE REVISED AS THE EMPLOYEES OF OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS SHOW THAT THEY CANNOT PRODUCE THEIR PASSPORT AND SAY THAT THEIR BOSSES HAVE IT LOCKED UP.

    TAKE A STAND CONTRACTING OFFICERS. SURELY YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING PROBLEM IN KUWAIT AND YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE A VERY BIG IMPACT.

    MS SPARKY – DO YOU THINK YOU CAN KEEP THIS COMMENT UP THIS TIME ?

  2. Comment by marc:

    Human trafficking is a normal and excepted business practice in much of the middle east particularly Dubai and Kuwait where nearly all the sub-contractors are based. The prime is going to look to it’s own bottom line when dealing with subs with the reasonable expectation that base commanders will find ways to keep the sordid details out of sight and out of mind as long as things are running smoothly and the troops are satisfied and well taken care of. It would be a very brave COR to go to his superiors and rock that boat. I hate to be cynical but in large contingency operations expediency is always king. Look at how difficult it is to replace companies engaged in fraudulent billing. So law or no law stamping out lucrative human trafficking won’t prove any easier.

    • Comment by CAMP ARIFJAN AND 386 ECONS WATCH:

      If those 2 organizations are answering Freedom of Information Act Requests regarding the listed businesses about such question as:

      1. Please provide all DCAA audits of McDonalds regarding employee passports and compliance with the TIPS program in 2011 and 2012.

      2. Provide a copy of all SF1402s issued at Camp Arifjan ( all organizations ) and 386 ECONS. ( That is the warrant of the contracting officers )

      3. Please provide any and all documents that were issed by AFFEEs to McDonalds as to the TIPs program.

      4. Please provide a copy of all inspections for passport possession of employees for all commercial establishments on Camp Arifjan or at Ali Al Salem Air Base for both the Army and Air Force side of the base.

      5. Please provide all Air Force or Army Instructions for placing an establishment off limits.

      you get the idea? And those questions and results will be published and send to Congress Members who sponsored the laws that created TIPs.

      How long do you think the criminal organization will continue to ignore that passports are getting locked up and not in the possession of McDonalds employees both on the installations and off the installations.

      You see, by definition, a criminal organization ignores laws of the United States Government and does it with the full knowledge and direction of their leadership – all the way up to their General Officer.

      If that General Officer’s ass and star are on the line – then TIPs will get enforced and their will be some off-limits notices issued and contracts cancelled.

      Get my drift ?

  3. Comment by Intrepid:

    Government officials have been paid off. Nothing will happen at Camp Crap John.

  4. Comment by Mary:

    Not only do the companies keep their passports,some also hold the drivers license and civil ID’s…and also while the government is paying for accommodations some logistic companies are making the drivers sleep in the trucks!!! All companies here in Kuwait are in violation of the Human Rights bill, as they are responsible for their sub-contractors actions! And not to mention “slop” they feed the Third Country Nationals…but then it isn’t about the Human, it is all about the $$$$$$$$$$$$$…..totally wrong!

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