Filipino Worker Recounts Escape From IraqDesperate Man Helped 40+ Others Flee Involuntary Servitude for Contractor
Showers to wash off the day’s sweat were an uncertainty, and in the chilly January and February nights of 2004, he and seven other Filipinos would live in an empty truck with no windows, sleep on cardboard boxes for a bed, and eat leftovers and meals-ready-to-eat from soldiers. It was the only way to have enough food. He says crackling gunfire and crashing incoming mortar would wake him at all hours of the night and the unfortified trailer would tremble and shake from nearby rocket blasts.
It was not what he had planned at all.
Trained as an air conditioning repairman and technician, Autencio says his recruiter in the Philippines agreed to place him in a two-year job at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Kuwait for $450 a month — maybe more with overtime. But when he arrived at the Kuwait airport, he was quickly shuttled to a rundown apartment building managed by First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, a Kuwaiti firm doing a booming multimillion-dollar business with the US military and the Pentagon’s primary support contractor KBR. To date, the company has billed the US government perhaps $2 billion for work in Iraq, including the $592-million US embassy in Baghdad now nearing completion.