By ALEJANDRA PAULINO, age 12
Since 2002, South Asian workers in Afghanistan and Iraq have been working in military bases, but not getting paid the money they were promised by exploitative recruiters and military contractors. Military contractors are companies who have arrangements with the United States to provide services in areas where we are at war.
There are 40,000 foreign workers on military bases who cook, clean and do laundry for U.S. soldiers. A report for Al Jazeera America by investigative journalists Anjali Kamat and Sam Black says that more than 500,000 contract laborers have worked since 2002. It also estimates that this system has wasted over $15 billion of U.S taxpayer money.
In the report, a foreign worker, Ravi, talks about his job on a military base. He says that a recruiter in his home country was going to send him to work for a private corporation hired by the U.S. military. “The recruiter said I will get basically $1,200 USD [U.S. dollars] per month,” he said. Ravi made much less than he was promised, only $500 dollars per month, but he had paid his recruiter $4,000 for the job. This means he would have to stay at the job longer to pay his recruiter back.
In other words, the United States is involved in a form of human trafficking, defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as recruiting people into an exploitative job under false terms.
In 2012, President Obama issued an executive order meant to strengthen regulations against human trafficking in federal contracts. However, the practices are still continuing, and the U.S. government has not yet responded to the Al Jazeera America article. In an interview with IndyKids, Kamat said, “We are following up with the U.S. government and hope they will further investigate the matter.”
Exploit – to take advantage of another person’s difficult or disempowered circumstances for personal gain