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Indian workers protest inhumane conditions at Signal International  

WASHINGTON (AP/Times of India) – Indian workers who say they were lured to move to the Gulf of Mexico coastal area by false promises of permanent jobs after Hurricane Katrina are demanding that their country help stop what they call human trafficking.

They say that more than 500 Indian nationals paid recruiters $20,000 each after they were promised permanent US residency to work as welders and pipe fitters for Signal International, an oil rig construction and repair company.

Instead, they said, they received 10-month guest-worker visas and were forced into inhumane living conditions at company facilities in Mississippi and Texas.

They filed a federal lawsuit against Signal this month and organized protests in several cities before traveling to Washington. They want the companies involved to be barred from participating in visa programs and are pressing discussions between the United States and Indian governments to improve the programmes.

Signal has denied allegations that it mistreated workers. The company said it will stop hiring guest workers until more safeguards are in place to prevent recruiting abuses.

Richard Marler, Signal’s president and chief executive, said he was shocked to learn that foreign workers allegedly were charged thousands of dollars by recruiters. He said Signal has severed its contract with recruiter Global Resources and its principals and plans to sue the firm.

Marler said he was hurt by allegations that workers were subjected to poor living conditions, saying Signal provided catered meals, 24-hour transportation services, Internet access and other amenities.  

"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

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