[JURIST] A US military spokesman said in Baghdad Tuesday that following a military investigation and reports from human rights groups indicating that private contractors in Iraq are violating human trafficking laws [Chicago Tribune report; Chicago Tribune background reports] in their recruitment of foreign workers - including withholding their passports - the US military command is taking steps [Casey orders, PDF] to ensure their "rights to freedom of movement and quality living standards." Hundreds of thousands of foreign laborers work menial jobs as cooks, food servers, and janitors for contractors throughout Iraq, the largest of which is KBR [corporate website], a subsidiary of Halliburton [corporate website]. Some have claimed they paid exorbitant fees to recruiters and were misled about where they would be working. Others allege they had their passports confiscated upon arrival and weren't provided suitable living space. The US military has said it will create new "measurable, enforceable standards for living conditions" and has ordered the return of passports to workers by May 1 [memorandum, PDF]. Contractors working in Iraq will also be required to undergo additional training to avoid human trafficking violations [memorandum, PDF]. Halliburton and KBR say they support the initiatives and a spokesperson told AP that all workers hired by them and by their subcontractors should be treated with "dignity and respect."
Reports of efforts by the US military to combat human trafficking come just days after the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [official website] released a report [text; press release] that criticized the efforts of countries around the world as ineffective in blocking the flow of people brought into countries and forced into harsh working conditions. AP has more.