tv Fault Lines Al Jazeera September 21, 2014 2:00am-2:31am EDT
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 from india and nepal, who traveled to a war zone just for the promise of a good job. for 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. fault lines examines the lives of these workers - and investigates how the american military has come to rely on an indentured workforce. camp marmal is the largest base in northern afghanistan.
nato's mission here centers on training the afghan national army. >> the complexity, when we first got here i started thinking about it. it almost becomes overwhelming. >> this is the us regional garrison commander, responsible for daily operations in the north. >> there's a lot of great contractors that come up here. local nationals, third country nationals, us expats. they're really good, they work together. >> what are the contractors doing? >> everything, everything you can think of. they work in the dining facilities. they help maintain the living facilities. what it does is that it allows the soldiers to concentrate on their primary mission, rather than having 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 afghanistan: the fluor
corporation, and dyncorp international. these companies are called 'prime contractors,' because the us government hired them directly. >> they all work together and do an outstanding job of serving us really, really good food. >> fluor manages camp marmal, but most of the contract workers here work for smaller companies - subcontractors - which fluor hires to handle basic tasks - cooking, cleaning, and laundry. >> and there is sort of the enjoyment of watching you're food made right here in front of you. >> the people serving food here work for these subcontractors. >> i think you just made their day. that was very sweet. >> christmas dinner. on the face of it, it's a little odd. american and european troops being served by indians and nepalis - in afghanistan. the workers line up separately for indian food.
when we requested to film here, the military had to ask permission from fluor. fluor denied our request. but i did chat with the workers in hindi and tamil when we ran into them 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 agents.
>> i asked several people if they would speak to me on camera about how they were recruited to afghanistan. most were hesitant, not wanting to jeopardize their jobs. but a few hours later, i got a message. one of the workers i met at the dining hall just contacted me. he wants to talk to us about his story. it isn't easy to talk openly on this base even though he's right here. so we're trying to find a place to meet. the worker asked us to conceal his identity and alter his voice.
we'll call him "ravi". he told us to meet him at an empty part of the base, after he finished his shift. >> ravi told us he was tricked into working in afghanistan for a salary that was less than half of what he was promised. it started when a friend back home introduced ravi to a recruiting agent, who told him that for a hefty fee, he could get a job in afghanistan working for dyncorp. he would fly to dubai, where he would connect with dyncorp and then travel to the base. >> but there was a catch. the job at dyncorp didn't actually exist. instead, the agent housed ravi in a work camp in dubai. after three weeks, the agent told him that for an additional fee, he could get ravi a job with a subcontractor - ecolog.
>> so you were promised a job dyncorp for $1200. and then you got a job at ecolog for $500? >> yes. >> how much money did you pay the agent? >> ravi had been recruited under fraudulent terms that compelled him to work for a year simply to pay of his debt. according to the us state department and the united nations, this is human
>> we wanted to talk to more people who'd 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 heartland of southern india, in the state of tamil nadu. >> the main issue when we talk about trafficking - we can call it as bonded labor - it all starts because they have to pay an amount to get that job. >> sindhu kavinamannil used to work for a subcontractor in kuwait. now she advocates on behalf of migrant laborers. over the last eight years, she has interviewed hundreds of contract workers in iraq and afghanistan. >> debt will make you work
anywhere. it doesn't matter if it's a war zone, doesn't matter if you're given a good food or good accommodation. these men are ready to sacrifice. >> govindnagaram is a village of six thousand people, several hours from the closest airport. locals estimate that eighty to ninety percent of men here have worked in iraq or afghanistan. >> if you have a regular job, you might get 5000 rupees - that's $100 dollars for a month. but what the agents promise, you will get $800 dollars for a month. even i will think of moving there to get a job. >> we visited a small tea shop, and word spread that we were looking to talk to people who had worked on bases. it turned out this man serving tea himself had been recruited for a job in afghanistan - with supreme, a contractor that supplies food and fuel to nato.
>> whether they made it to afghanistan or not, everyone here had a story about how they had been cheated. this man, nagaraj, paid three thousand dollars to an agent for a job as a cook in afghanistan. but when he arrived at the base, he was told he would be working as a waiter for a much lower salary.
>> at bagram, the largest us base in afghanistan, nagaraj worked for ecolog, the same company that ravi had told us about. ecolog is one of the most prominent subcontractors in afghanistan, working on both fluor and dyncorp contracts. >> it's completely 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 your job is like you're coming back to shame and debt, and what's my future after that? you're here, 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 paid to the agent, i don't know about the money you paid. do you have a paper to show? >> being fired is especially daunting because most people borrowed money to pay their recruiter - at interest rates of 25 to 40 percent. >> ganesan subbaiah had to come up with two thousand five hundred dollars. at the time, he earned two dollars a day. >> ganesan paid for a job in afghanistan with a subcontractor called prime projects international, or ppi. but ppi sent him to an american base in an entirely different country.
>> rajesh kumar worked at camp dwyer in afghanistan, making seven hundred eighty dollars per month. but in a year's work there, he only earned about two thousands dollars. the rest - seventy five percent of his wages - went towards the loan to pay the agent. >> rajesh was strung along by five successive agents, each of whom charged an additional fee.
>> did the contractors not know that their employees were trapped in debt? or did they condone these abuses because they benefitted in some way? to figure that out, we had to retrace the path of these workers - to the city nearly everyone had traveled through: dubai. >> a new episode of the ground breaking series, edge of eighteen growing up fast... >> my quest is to find me, and me is not here... >> fighting for a better future >> if you gonna go to college, you gonna end up dead on the streets... >> life changing moments >> i had never been bullied, everyone hates me... >> from oscar winning director, alex gibney, a hard hitting look at the real issues facing american teens. the incredible journey continues... on the edge of eighteen only on all jazeera america @
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