Agencies Blasted for Ignoring Contractor Role in Human Trafficking

November 3, 2011

The State and Defense departments are doing too little to help prosecute criminals working for U.S. subcontractors who trick foreign nationals into indentured servitude and prostitution in and around Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, a House panel was told on Wednesday.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of desperate workers from nations such as Bangladesh, Nepal and the Fiji Islands in recent years have fallen victim to deceitful traffickers who lure them to war zones with the promise of steady work, but then force them to pay commissions and borrow from loan sharks before trapping them in degrading jobs in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Yet not a single prosecution or contractor termination has been documented, witnesses said, a state of affairs that agency representatives could do little to explain.

"These substandard labor practices violate every human value we hold as a country," said Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform, which called a hearing to explore agency handling of U.S-hired subcontractors who abet or tolerate the criminal schemes.

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