Migrant workers ‘fear for their safety’ after deaths on Diego Garcia

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Migrant workers employed by nan US defence contractor KBR connected nan British-owned land of Diego Garcia person expressed concerns for their information aft nan caller deaths of 2 of their colleagues, nan Observer has learned.

The astir caller decease connected Diego Garcia, which is big to a strategical American subject guidelines successful nan British Indian Ocean Territory, came connected 5 January. Relemay Fabula Gan, 41, from nan Philippines, died aft suffering a collapsed lung pursuing respective weeks of unwellness aft a Covid diagnosis, her family said.

Diego Garcia does not person a hospital-grade wellness facility; workers and subject unit who go earnestly sick connected nan land are typically airlifted to a infirmary successful Singapore.

Gan had been sick for respective weeks connected nan guidelines earlier her death. Her family and colleagues judge she could person been saved if she had been taken disconnected nan land for treatment. The family said Gan had nary underlying wellness conditions and was an award-winning amateur cyclist.

KBR said that Gan’s decease was a tragedy. In a statement, it highlighted that she died aft being sent to nan US subject session connected Diego Garcia for aesculapian care.

“We requested a medevac for her nan aforesaid time nan subject expert requested it. There was nary hold successful ordering nan medevac erstwhile KBR received nan petition from nan subject doctor,” a KBR spokesperson said. “All of nan aesculapian resources disposable connected Diego Garcia were utilized to effort to forestall nan tragic nonaccomplishment of Ms Gan.”

Gan died respective hours earlier nan medevac – aesculapian removal – formation landed. The business has led to fears among workers that their lives could beryllium astatine consequence if they suffer a aesculapian emergency.

A outer position of Diego Garcia, nan British Indian Ocean Territory wherever nan US has a strategical base.
A outer position of Diego Garcia, nan British Indian Ocean Territory wherever nan US has a strategical base. Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images

KBR, antecedently known arsenic Kellogg Brown & Root, is nan main contractor for nan base, wherever it employs astir 1,200 workers from nan Philippines, India, Kenya and Mauritius.

An Observer investigation successful November revealed nan decease of Saddam Ali, 33, an Indian worker of KBR astatine nan base. His assemblage was held connected nan land for 7 weeks earlier being repatriated to his family successful Delhi.

The family were fixed Ali’s autopsy study successful March. It revealed that he died from sepsis, which had developed aft he contracted a bacterial infection – astir apt caused by an insect wound – connected a travel location to India.

The time earlier he died, subject doctors attempted to spot Ali connected a portable ventilator, but it “would not usability correctly to present nan required unit support”, according to nan autopsy report, which nan Observer has seen.

Ali was pronounced dormant connected 18 October, aft suffering 3 cardiac arrests wrong 12 hours. In a statement, a institution spokesperson said that Ali was nether nan attraction of nan subject session erstwhile he died, adding: “KBR did each that it could to assistance nan family successful this difficult and tragic time”. The US Department of Defense did not respond to a petition for comment.

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Migrant workers recruited for jobs successful Diego Garcia are not fixed general activity visas for their jobs connected nan island. When they are hired, KBR provides Indian recruits pinch flights and tourer visas to Bahrain and it past flies them from location to Diego Garcia connected a subject flight, according to respective workers interviewed.

“We are telling lies to nan Indian migration authorities that we are going to sojourn Bahrain. We are hiding from nan Indian authorities wherever we work,” 1 Indian worker said. “If I told nan truth to nan migration authorities, they would not let america to recreation because location is nary visa successful our hands.”

A KBR spokesperson said that each labor connected Diego Garcia “have nan archiving and authorities authorisations required for them to activity connected nan base. We travel applicable laws and regulations to employment group connected Diego Garcia”.

Workers said that KBR labor who go sick are typically airlifted to a designated infirmary successful Singapore. Indian workers require a visa to participate nan country. Some Indian workers are worried they do not person nan basal archiving to beryllium quickly evacuated to different countries successful aesculapian emergencies, they said.

A KBR spokesperson said: “Singapore issues emergency visas for emergency aesculapian matters, and it is only 1 of respective locations wherever Diego Garcia labor tin beryllium medevacked.”

The institution did not respond to questions astir really agelong it would return to unafraid a Singaporean visa for a sick worker.

“In general, while waiting connected an reply from Singapore aliases immoderate different country, we do everything successful our powerfulness to place nan fastest option,” nan spokesperson said. “All of KBR’s Diego Garcia labor from India, Kenya and elsewhere person nan archiving and authorities authorisations required for them to activity connected nan base.”

KBR began recruiting Kenyan and Indian workers for Diego Garcia successful 2022. Some of these workers allege they had been charged recruitment fees of up to $1,500 (£1,200) for their jobs by brokers successful their location countries.

They claimed that a Kenyan agent demanded that workers salary this interest successful instalments from their monthly salaries aft they began activity connected nan island. The agent placed his woman successful a KBR occupation connected Diego Garcia to further intimidate them into repaying, respective workers said.Payment of recruitment fees is simply a important parameter of possible labour trafficking since it tin trap workers successful oppressive jobs while paying disconnected their debts, according to nan UN’s International Labour Organization.

KBR launched an investigation aft nan Observer approached it successful January pinch allegations that labor had paid to get their jobs.

“We completed our investigation into this matter and person taken corrective action,” said nan spokesperson. “We person zero tolerance for labour trafficking of immoderate kind, including nan costs of recruiting fees, and we ever strive to run pinch integrity successful accordance pinch our values.”

As a consequence of KBR’s investigation, nan broker’s woman has been dismissed from her occupation and removed from Diego Garcia. Some Kenyan workers said they were excessively frightened to return location for holidays because of threats and intimidation from nan angered recruitment broker.

“He threatened maine and said ‘I’ll termination you’ if I talk astir it,” said 1 worker, who provided transaction records, matter messages and emails to verify their account.

The US’s federal acquisition regulations for combatting trafficking successful persons prohibit authorities contractors and their subcontractors and brokers from charging recruitment fees.

“Recruitment fees that whitethorn lead to involuntary servitude of overseas workers are prohibited by law, executive bid and national regulations,” said Latesha Love-Grayer, head of International Affairs and Trade astatine nan US Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is nan audit institution of nan national government.

“The US has a zero-tolerance argumentation for these types of imaginable trafficking activities.”

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Source theguardian
theguardian