Iraq's Illegal Employment Agencies

These agencies often register with the government as travel agencies, making it easier for them to get visas for the Asian workers. The agencies claim these workers are religious tourists and seek to visit Iraq's holy shrines.

“The Labor Ministry has caught six agencies in this regard last month, halted their operations and referred them to the judiciary,” Muneam said.

Earlier this month, one of the ministry's committees visited the Rida Alwan cafe and informed the owner of the violation of employing unregistered workers. He will be referred to the Labor Court in Baghdad that will issue him a fine of 3 million Iraqi dinar (about $2,500).

Alwan said, “The Labor Ministry lacks real control and does not hold workshops to teach the unemployed about the way to deal with the employers and customers.”

Mustafa Saadoun, the director of the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor: “The poor [governmental] control causes Asian workers to be exploited by their employers, and the same applies to [some] Iraqis.

There are cases where Asian workers are receiving inhumane treatment in Iraq. Asian workers work for more than 14 hours in many places, and the dormitories provided by the employers are often harmful to their health in the long run, as the temperature is low in winter and high in summer.”

Imad Fouad, an Iraqi worker at a popular cafe in Baghdad, told Al-Monitor: “Asian workers stole many job opportunities from Iraqis. The only difference between the workers is that Iraqis refuse to be exploited by their employer the same way Asians are exploited.”

After almost one-third of Iraq fell in the hands of IS, the harsh security situation led to a rise in unemployment rates, from 13% in 2010 to 25% in 2015. The government does not seem to have any solution in light of the austerity policies it adopted in response to the decline in oil prices.

“There are many people willing to work. This is why we are easily fired from our jobs if we refuse to work long hours,” Amir Abd Ali, unemployed for six months, said. “I was fired from my job because I asked for one day off per week, despite working 13 hours per day for $600 [per month].”

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