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US subcontractor keeps 1,000 Asians confined in Iraq warehouse

A Kuwait catering company, hired by KBR, kept its workers in a windowless warehouse near Baghdad for as long as three months.

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Men living in warehouses near Baghdad's airport marched out of their compound on Tuesday demanding work. The men had been promised jobs in Iraq by Najlaa, a Kuwaiti catering compnay, yet when it did not work out, the men were kept in the compound.

Adam Ashton/Modesto Bee/MCT/NEWSCOM

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About 1,000 Asian men who were hired by a Kuwaiti subcontractor to the US military have been confined for as long as three months in windowless warehouses near the Baghdad airport without money or a place to work.

Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor to KBR, the Texas firm formerly known as Halliburton, hired the men, who are from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. On Tuesday, they staged a march outside their compound to protest their living conditions.

"It's really dirty," a Sri Lankan man told McClatchy, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he still wants to work for Najlaa. "For all of us, there are about 12 toilets and about 10 bathrooms. The food, it's three half-liter (one pint) bottles of water a day. Bread, cheese, and jam for breakfast. Lunch is a small piece of meat, potato, and rice. Dinner is rice and dal, but it's not dal," he said, referring to the Indian lentil dish.

After McClatchy began asking questions about the men on Tuesday, the Kuwaiti contractor announced that it would return them to their home countries and pay them back salaries. Najlaa officials contended that they've cared for the men's basic needs while the company has tried to find them jobs in Iraq.

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