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US: Probe into Iraq trafficking claims

by Elise LabottCNN
May 5th, 2004

The United States is investigating reports Indian nationals were victims of human trafficking to Iraq and mistreated while working there as contractors in U.S. military camps, the State Department has said.

Indian press reports said that Indian nationals in Jordan and Kuwait were recruited for jobs in U.S. military camps in Iraq as cooks, butchers, laundry workers and handymen.

Some of the Indians charge they signed up through Indian employment companies to work in Kuwait, but ended up in Iraq working for low pay and were refused permission to leave the country.

Four Indians claim they escaped from an American military camp in Mosul after enduring a nine-month ordeal, and one man told India's IANS news service that he was forced to cook pork, forbidden under Islam, during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi began looking into the reports after it was contacted by the Indian government Tuesday.

"Obviously, we take all such reports seriously and will do our best to find out the facts of the matter," said Boucher.

The embassy would try to identify who the people worked with, where they worked and what their duties were, and then "use our folks on the other end of the equation to find the specifics" and see if the alleged abuse really happened, Boucher added.

The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi issued a statement Wednesday saying, "We are investigating reports of abuse and human trafficking of Indian citizens in Iraq.
"We take all such reports seriously. We are committed to treating all persons under coalition authority with dignity, respect, and humanity."

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