In March I wrote a blog entry about the US embassy currently being built in Baghdad, the most expensive, bombastic, and gigantic one in the world. While I was mainly dismayed by its cost (nearly $600 million, with an estimated yearly operating cost of $1.2 billion/year) and its stupendous proportions (the size of the Vatican), an article by David Phinney originally published on IRAQSlogger and posted today on AlterNet reveals appalling living conditions, abuse and coerced labor as being common circumstances at the construction site.
Apparently, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting — the company that received the $592 million building contract from the US State Department — has come under some scrutiny after complaints that the more than 3,000 workers received little or no medical care, abusive treatment, and sub-standard living conditions, with 20 people having to live in one trailer. Most of the migrant laborers were recruited from poor countries like the Philippines, Pakistan, Nepal, or Ghana; often, they expected to be working in Dubai but ended up in Iraq instead, against their wishes. Since First Kuwaiti keeps their passports locked up, and many of the workers are untrained and uneducated, there’s not much left for them to do but stay and try to survive.
It seems like bitter irony that this fortress with swimming pool and a gym is one of the very few major building projects undertaken by the US government in Baghdad that’s being completed on schedule — it’s planned to open in September, while all around it the city is utter chaos. Maybe it’ll be quite comfy inside, but it’s a prison nonetheless.