FBI investigates slavery complaint of more than 200 immigrant workers in New Jersey

FBI agents.

Photo: ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

Hundreds of workers brought in from India were allegedly forced to work for a few dollars a day and with no freedom of movement to help build a huge Hindu temple in New Jersey. according to a lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit, filed by the workers, accuses the prominent Hindu sect known as Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) of human trafficking and wage law violations.

FBI Agents arrived Tuesday at the sprawling complex located in Robbinsville, near Trenton (state capital), in “police activity authorized by the court,” said a spokesman for the federal agency, without giving further details.

The lawsuit seeks unpaid wages and compensatory and punitive damages not specified. The global organization BAPS is accused of bringing the country to more than 200 lower caste men from India who don’t speak english, claiming they were religious volunteers. But when they came to New Jersey supposedly their passports were confiscated.

They were forced to work in the temple 13 hours a day, from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm, for around $ 1.20 an hourthe court documents allege. In practice, supposedly They only received $ 50 in cash per month, with the rest being deposited into their accounts in India.

The ornate temple, made of Italian and Indian marble, stands on a 162-acre site, the New Yok Post detailed. According to the lawsuit, the exploited workers were kept in an enclosure with bars on the property, monitored with cameras and guards.

They were told that if they tried to leave, the police would arrest them because they did not have their passports, the lawsuit alleges. Daniel Werner, a lawyer representing several of the workers, described as “Shocking that this happens in our backyard.”

“It is even more disturbing that it happened during years in New Jersey behind the temple walls, ”Werner said. Some of the workers would have been at the site for years and were not allowed to leave unless they were accompanied by someone from BAPS, the lawyer said.

A BAPS spokesperson told the Associated Press that the organization was first informed of the allegations early Tuesday. “We are taking them very seriously and are thoroughly reviewing the issues raised,” said Matthew Frankel.

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