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Smuggled Contract Laborers in Afghanistan: The Tip of the Iceberg

 
Graphic map of layout of Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan
 Image Source: Afghanistan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.

The Washington Examiner obtained an investigative report that uncovered instances of foreign workers without proper security clearances or identification being smuggled onto U.S. and NATO bases in Afghanistan. According to an April 2010 report by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan, two federal contractors, Stallion Construction and Engineering and DynCorp International, violated security procedures at Kandahar Airfield by escorting undocumented foreign laborers onto the base.

Illegal labor practices ranging from contract worker smuggling to human trafficking persist in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of nationals from impoverished countries are lured by the promise of good jobs, but sometimes end up victims of scams that leave them virtual slaves with no way to return home or seek legal recourse. Or, as ISAF documented, they may gain unauthorized access to sensitive war zone locations. In Afghanistan, according to the Examiner’s description of the ISAF report, prospective workers fly into the country, where they are met by “unscrupulous subcontractors” who help them bypass security measures to enter U.S. and NATO bases and work for companies like Stallion and DynCorp. According to the Examiner, the report identified only a small number of what could be hundreds of undocumented employees at Kandahar Airfield, where more than 20,000 U.S. and NATO personnel are stationed.

“This report is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg,” an unnamed U.S. official told the Examiner. “The military police report is only one example of what has been going on for some time at the major bases across the country. This is a serious security issue and human rights issue as well.”

POGO hasn’t seen the ISAF report, but we obtained this DynCorp security incident report [Note: POGO redacted all personally identifiable information] from March 2010 describing an incident that sounds very similar to the activity ISAF investigated. DynCorp discovered that four Filipino citizens gained access to Kandahar Airfield through questionable circumstances with the help of a bus driver “escort” who worked for the company.

According to the Examiner, the ISAF report recommended that Stallion be suspended from contracting but said nothing about sanctioning DynCorp. DynCorp, one of the three primary LOGCAP IV contractors in Afghanistan (along with Fluor and KBR), is no stranger to human trafficking issues. Ten years ago, DynCorp was embroiled in international controversy over allegations that its employees in the Balkans participated in a massive human trafficking and prostitution operation. A movie based on those allegations debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.

On Tuesday, the State Department held a briefing on human trafficking. Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca spoke about the government’s new interagency initiatives to combat trafficking in persons. Neither the ISAF report nor anything about contract worker smuggling or human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan was mentioned.

Last month, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General released a report urging DoD contracting officials to do more to combat human trafficking, such as ensuring that contracts contain the required anti-trafficking provisions. This report, the second DoD IG report on trafficking required by law, examined a sample of DoD construction and service contracts valued at $5 million or more awarded in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 for work in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Qatar, and Bahrain. The report found that only about half of the contracts contained the required Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) clause. The report warns that such widespread noncompliance with this requirement means many contractors may be unaware of the government’s “zero tolerance” policy with regard to human trafficking, and contracting officers are unable to apply remedies in the case of violations.

By: Neil Gordon
Investigator, POGO

Neil Gordon, Investigator Neil Gordon is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Neil investigates and maintains POGO's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.

Topics: Contract Oversight

Authors: Neil Gordon

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