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The living space for janitors at the US’s consulate in Jeddah is less than some livestock

A photo of the empty hallways of the US Cannon House office building
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
These requirements lack polish.
  • Daniel Wolfe
By Daniel Wolfe

Things reporter

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

The United States Department of State is trying to hire a firm to provide janitorial services to its consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The State Department’s solicitation notes, the contractor must provide housing that offers “security, peace and dignity, and at a minimum” have 36 to 50 square feet of living space per employee.

That’s about the footprint of a standard camping tent and in some cases is smaller than the area recommended for certain livestock pens.

Compared to the living quarters for the United States military, standards are similar. Army trainees get at least 72 square feet (pdf, pg. 25). Meanwhile, a Navy submariner gets 15 square feet for rest.

As extreme as the close quarters sounds, spelling them out is part of an effort to stave off human trafficking. Over and over again the US has hired contractors in the Middle East who tricked or coerced workers into modern-day slavery. The solicitation also specifies that workers must have free access to their passports and that they are presented printed materials on workers’ rights in their own language.

Correction: An earlier version of the graphic in this piece incorrectly displayed the relative areas of living spaces.

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