Last Friday the ever pertinacious Ms. Sparky scooped everyone by reporting that according to a recent memo from Col. Nolan of the U.S. Central Command Contracting Command to ALL CONTRACTORS IN IRAQ, all contractors in Iraq have 20 days to repatriate (send home) third country nationals whose countries prohibit travel to Iraq. This includes among others, the Philippines and Nepal.
Ms. Sparky notes that this will affect virtually every service KBR provides the U.S. military in Iraq, from Filipinos working as craftspeople and laborers, in the Dining Facilities (DFAC's), laundries, and driving trucks, and shuttle buses. There are both direct hire Filipinos as well as Filipinos who work for KBR subcontractors such as PPI and Serka who may have been smuggled in.
This cannot come as a surprise to either the U.S. government or its contractors. Companies like KBR, and all other contractors in Iraq had to know about the Iraq travel restrictions of the Filipinos.
The Philippines banned its citizens from working in Iraq in July 2004 after insurgents abducted and threatened to behead Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz. He was released after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo agreed to withdraw the Philippines' small military contingent in Iraq.
This is not a trivial matter. Companies like Prime Projects International (PPI), a KBR subcontractor, must have more than 3000 Filipinos in the country. At minimum of $900 each for plane tickets the price tag for their departure will be huge.
Private military contractors supporters often claim that despite the danger of working in war zones, that Third Country Nationals (TCNs) are still better off than staying at home because, even if they make less money in Iraq than Western counterparts, it is still more money than they would earn in their home country. But the other side of that is that TCNs are often treated like crap.
In May 2005 some 300 Filipinos employed at a US military camp in Iraq went on strike to protest poor working conditions. The workers, under contract with PPI and KBR were based at Camp Cooke in the province of Taji. At least 500 workers from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal joined the strike led by the Filipino workers.
According to the July 20 memo:
In the past three weeks, eight third country nationals (TCN), several from countries whose current domestic laws prohibit their citizens from working in Iraq, were discovered to have been left behind by their previous employers at various contractor controlled camps (A.K.A. "mancamps") throughout Iraq. This raises numerous concerns about whether contractors are complying with travel and work restrictions of certain TCN countries, Iraqi immigration requirements, and contract redeployment responsibilities to include their respective sub-contractors in the Iraq Joint Operating Area (IJOA).
THIS LETTER SERVES NOTICE THAT ALL CONTRACTORS OPERATING IN IRAQ HAVE 20 DAYS FROM THE DATE OF THIS LETTER TO ENSURE THEIR EMPLOYEES COMPLY WITH U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL LAW AND UNDERSTAND THEIR REDEPLOYMENT RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER THE TERMS OF THEIR CONTRACT.