Houston: Lawyers for a group of Indian
guest workers, trafficked to the US from India to work in ship
yards after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, have sued an American
company, Signal International, along with its co-conspirators
and other entities for human trafficking and racketeering.
If class status is granted, the lawsuit could be the
largest human trafficking case in US history, the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said in a statement.
Workers were allegedly lured here with dishonest
assurances of becoming lawful permanent US residents, the
The ACLU joined a class action lawsuit brought on
behalf of over 500 guest workers from India charging that the
workers were trafficked into the US through the federal
government`s H-2B guest worker programme with dishonest
assurances of becoming lawful permanent US residents and
subjected to squalid living conditions, fraudulent payment
practises, and threats of serious harm upon their arrival.
The complaint alleges that recruiting agents hired by
the marine industry company Signal International held the
guest workers` passports and visas, coerced them into paying
extraordinary fees for recruitment, immigration processing and
travel, and threatened the workers with serious legal and
physical harm if they did not work under the Signal-restricted
guest worker visa.
The complaint also alleges that once in the US, the
men were required to live in Signal`s guarded, over crowded
labour camps, subjected to psychological abuse and defrauded
out of adequate payment for their work.
The ACLU charges that the federal government has
fallen short of its responsibility to protect the rights of
guest workers in this country.
According to the lawsuit, the treatment of the workers
violates the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection
Act (TVPA) and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organisations Act (RICO).
In addition to the federal court litigation, in
partnership with the ACLU, the workers have testified before
the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the
UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and senior
staff at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Signal, a marine and fabrication company with
shipyards in Mississippi, Texas and Alabama, is a
subcontractor for several major multinational companies.