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tv   Fault Lines  Al Jazeera  March 4, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm EST

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that's an interesting take. so more on everything we are covering right here the address is there you will find all the latest comments, analysis, video on demand and blogs from our reporters on the ground. so do take a look, >> it's christmas eve and u.s. soldiers are preparing for their last month in afghanistan. about 40,000 are still here. by the end of the year there will be just 8,000. we traveled to afghanistan in the midst of this transition.
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but on the base, we found a story that isn't being told. the people doing the day-to-day work here are mostly civilian contract workers. men frommen india and nepal who travel to a war zone gist for a promise of a good job. or many of them that promise turned out to be a lie. they ended up deceived and indebted victims of human traffickers who thrive on military contracts . front line investigates the american military has come to rely on an indentured workforce. camp marmel is the largest base in northern afghanistan.
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nato's mission here centers on training the afghan national army. >> the complexity sometimes is when we first got here is i started thinking about it, it but -- >> this is the u.s. regional garrison commander responsible for daily operations in the north. >> there are a lot of great contractors who come up here local nationals third country nationals u.s. ex-pats and they all work together. >> what are they doing? >> everything you can think of. they work in the dining facilities. they help maintain the living facilities. what it does is it allows the soldiers to concentrate on their primary mission rather than having a lot of extra duties. we could not do our mission without them. they do a good job for us. >> two american companies manage the military's facilities in
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afghanistan. the floor corporation and dine-core international. the these are called direct contractors because the u.s. government hired them directly. >> they serve us really, really good food. >> most of the contractors work for smaller companies, subcontractors, which floor hires to do basic task force, cooking cleaning and laundry. >> there is the issue of watching your food being prepared right in front of you. >> the people here work for subcontractors. christmas dinner, on the face of it, it's a little odd. american and european troops being served by indians and nepalese in afghanistan.
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the workers line up separately for indian food. when we requested to film here, the u.s. military had to ask for permission from floor. floor denied our request. but i did speak to some on the base. it wasn't long before i heard about a unique aspect of their employment. to get these jobs they all had to pay fees to recruiting agencies. recruiting agents.
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>> i asked several people if they would talk to me, most were hesitant not wanting to jeopardize their jobs. but a few hours later, i got a message. >> one of the workers in the dining hall has contacted me. he wanted to contact us about his story. it isn't easy to speak about his story because it's right here so we tried to find a place to meet. the worker asked us to
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conceal his identity and disguise his voice. we will call him ronnie. we met him after his shift. robbie told us he was tricked to working in asks for a salary less than half what he was promised. they told him for a hefty fee he could get a job in afghanistan working for dinecore. he would fly dubai and connect with dinecore and go to afghanistan. there was a catch the job at dinecore didn't actually actually exist. instead, the agent housed robbie in a work camp in dubai, and the man said for an additional fee
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he could get him a job. >> i saw my contract it was only $500. >> you were promised a job at dinecorp and then you got a job at echo log. >> i said i didn't want to go for $500, it wasn't enough for me. he said i do not want to give you back. i didn't have a choice. 500 is better than nothing so that's why i came. >> how much money did you pay the agent? >> i paid totally $4,000 u.s., and when i came first i got $500, you could see how much i had to work to get that money back, it is at least eight months and the interest so it's like one year. >> robbie had been recruited under fraudulent terms to work for one year simply to pay off his debt.
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according to the united states, this is human trafficking and illegal under international law. >> everybody they have the same salary. >> what percentage of workers paid fees to agents in order to get you. >> 99.99. >> our american story is written everyday. it's not always pretty, but it's real... and we show you like no-one else can. this is our american story. this is america tonight.
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>> we wanted to talk to more people who had worked these jobs. but to do so we had to go far outside the war where they could speak more openly. we found them in the rural heart land of southern india, in the state of tamal nadu.
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>> the main issue when we talk about trafficking, we can call it as a bonded labor, it all start because they have to pay an amount to get the job. >> sindu used to work for a subcontractor in kuwait. now she advocates on behalf of migrant laborers. over the last eight years she's interviewed hundreds of contract workers in iraq and afghanistan. >> that will make you work anywhere. doesn't matter it's a war zone, doesn't matter if you are going given good food or conditions. men are ready to sacrifice. >> a village of several thousand people,en several hours from the closest airport. locals estimate that 70 to 80% of the men have worked in afghanistan.
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>> you may get 500 rupees a month. the agents promise you to get $800 a month. i would consider moving there to get a job. >> we went to a tea shop and word spread we were looking for people who had worked on bases. it turned out this man serving tea, had worked in afghanistan, for supreme , working for nato.
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>> whether they made it to afghanistan or not, everyone had a story about how they had been cheated. this man paid $3,000 for 3,000 to an agent, for a job in afghanistan but when he arrived he was told he would be working for a much lower salary. at bagram, the largest u.s. base in afghanistan, worked for echo log, the same company robbie had told us about. one of the most prominent subcontractors, working on flor floor and dinecorps contracts.
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it's public health controlled on fear. the fear of losing the job and the fear of losing the job is because they are in debt back home. losing the job is like you're coming back to shame and debt and what my future after that? you're here, you, i own you, and you work here or if you don't want to you go back home. but what about the money you paid? you didn't pay me. you pay to the agent. i didn't know about the money you paid. you have a paper to show? >> being fired is especially daunting because most people borrowed to pay their recrui recruiterrer at interest rates of 25 to 40%. he had to come up with $2500.
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at the time he earned just $2 a day. he paid for a job in afghanistan for a subcontractor called prime projects international or ppi, they assigned him to a job in an entirely different country. >> he worked at camp
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dewire in afghanistan, make $800 a month. in the entire year he worked there he only made about $2,000. the rest went to pay the agent. is he was strung long by five different agents, each of whom charged a fee.
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the department of defense requires that contractors ask workers whether they paid recruitment fees. but it isn't hard to see why so few people are comfortable telling the truth. >> do the contractors not know that their employees were trapped in debt or do they condone the abuses because they benefit in some way? to figure that out we have to retrace the path to the city.
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>> dubai is critical. you'll see most of the contractors have their headquarters and incorporated in dubai. >> sam mccann is a former army jag officer who served in iraq and afghanistan. for the last couple of years he has campaigned to reform the military contracting system. >> people wonder why someone would take them across the ocean if there wasn't a contract? it gets into human trafficking. the trafficker gets paid when he leaves india.
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the trafficker gets paid commission. it doesn't matter if they have a have a job over there. >> subcontractors like ppi and echo log run their middle east operations out of dubai. they keep labor camps here to houseworkers on their way to military base he and their recruiting bases have camps here too. away from the dazzling towers of dubai, a sprawling labor camp is home to hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from south asia. in hinzi,
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this means town of gold. but it is more a sham low pool. military bases in afghanistan. >> if there was one small room and we were like 25 to 40 people in one room but basically that room is capable only for three people. >> what would happen if someone tried to apply for a job directly with echolog? >> they are not responding. there is only one way we can control assent.
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>> the typical business model i'll call it that's used if by by the gulf subcontractors is they'll go to india or nepal or south africa, and they work out the above the board terms and then there's the below the board agreement which is the kickback. >> we needed to speak to someone intimately familiar with the arrangements between subcontractors and their agents. in afghanistan, robbie had given us the name of the recruiter in dubai who connected him to echolog. to get to speak to this agent
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openly, i and my employee set up a meeting with the agent near his office and filmed it using two hidden cameras. >> hello how are you? so nice to meet you. >> he told us his credentials. >> i am sought by every people for ecolog and i have seen more than 2,000 people in echolog. >> if they stay where would they stay in dubai? in the main city or -- >> i asked the agent about his contract with echolog and he told me something incredible. echolog doesn't pay him any money directly. the money he makes comes entirely from the fees paid by
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job candidates and subcontractors take a cut from those fees. >> it will be a no-fee contract? >> yes yes yes. because we are not allowed to charge any money . >> this agent even offered to pay me money if we hired workers from his camp. 100 to $200 for each worker we could find job for in afghanistan. workers aren't only paying a recruiter, they are unknowingly paying their employer, the subcontractor, for the plfl prff
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havinprivilegeof having a job. >> the men are commodities, chattel. the only one who is not being paid is the worker who is being paid the being -- work are who is doing the work. the subcontractor, the contractor are all making profit. according to the subcontract, it shows that they are making 70 o100% profits. say i'm ppi, i'll give you laborers to pick up your trash and clean your toilets and i'm only going to pay you $6 an hour. that seems fair and reasonable, i get the contract. i know i'm only going to pay the worker
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$1.65 an hour. and the difference between one.65 an -- 1.65 and 6 is my profit. >> the way the system is set up they actually have an incentive to use subcontractors that overcharge. that's because the government has agreed to reimburse subcontractors for all of their cost and pay a portion as a profit. >> the prime contractors make millions of dollars in additional profits by subcontracting it out. >> so so the u.s. government is subsidizing human trafficking. >> no, we're paying for it directly. this is only form of human trafficking where the taxpayer directlily pays the human trafficker.
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>> so floor and dinecorps know you are -- >> quote, zero tolerance policy regarding trafficking in persons. echolog told us it's against company policy for any subcontractor to pay a recruitment fee and all companies are in complete alliance with government contracts. have not responded to our requests for comments. the pentagon and obama administration have all issued rules designed to stop trafficking on military contracts but those rules have never been enforced. >> even though this is against u.s. law there have been no criminal prosecutions, there have been no civil action he,
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there has never even been one contractor that is suspended for getting additional government contracts. even though everyone is aware they are engaged in human trafficking. >> today there are nearly 40,000 third country nationals working on base operated by u.s. central command. in afghanistan, iraq and elsewhere. but even as the united states winds down its wars, these workers remain critical to american facilities around the world. >> the problem doesn't go away, because we're still going to have needs of support both for department of defense and department of state. now they're starting to use third country nationals for bases in djibouti and other parts of africa as well.
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>> this week on "talk to al jazeera" -- artist, author and reporter molly crabapple. >> what i think my art brought to my journalism is that i didn't come to journalism with the sort of bias towards faux objectivity... i deeply believe in having an extreme bias towards reality. >> in her youth, she traveled europe and the near east, and worked as a nude model and