U.S. State Department employees working throughout the Arab World are abusing foreign workers by illegally confiscating their passports and providing them with poor pay and unsanitary living conditions, along with other indignities, a new report has found.
According to Foreign Policy, the State Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) researched six contracts at U.S. embassies in Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and at two consulates general in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Among the OIG report's various findings: indicators of coercion (confiscation of documents at the work destination), indicators of exploitation (bad living conditions and payment issues), and indicators of abuse of vulnerability (absence of language education and general abuse of a lack of information).
"Workers at all embassies and consulates general expressed frustration with inconsistent payment, confusing pay stubs, and withheld wages," the report states. "In addition, some workers reported they do not receive compensation to which they are entitled according to local labor laws, and they compromise their legal status by taking outside work."
The report also found that more than 70 percent of workers interviewed reported they live in "overcrowded, unsafe, or unsanitary conditions," with 20 workers living in less space than provided at a minimum security prison, CBS is reporting. Though the report said no evidence of "severe" abuse (which includes sex trafficking, debt bondage, and slavery), the lack of a clear monitoring system for such illicit activities means the OIG ultimately couldn't say whether or not trafficking violations had taken place.
According to the Associated Press, the assessment is part of a performance evaluation of contractors who supply gardeners, maids, cooks and local guards to the embassies in Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. As RTT is reporting, investigators had met with around 75 workers employed at U.S. missions, all of whom revealed that they had come to the respective countries voluntarily.