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Russia – Migrant workers exploited at Olympic sites, claims watchdog

14 February 2013

An international human rights group claimed on Wednesday that migrant workers building sites and infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, have been cheated and exploited.

The claims were dismissed by the Russian government. The 67-page report by Human Right Watch alleges that some contractors cheat workers out of wages and demanded 12-hour shifts with few days off. Employers have also been accused of confiscating passports and work permits.

With the Winter Olympics a year away, large construction projects in Sochi have drawn an influx of over 16,000 migrant workers into Russia. Workers come from countries such as Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine.

The watchdog said that some workers earn between 55 and 80 roubles (US$1.80 to $2.60) an hour. It claimed that a group of workers had gone without pay for months. The report found that most workers did not receive a copy of their employment contracts while some worked without a contract.

“We’re not talking about problems with just one worker or violations by one particularly bad employer. We’re talking about serious, consistent reports from workers on several of the major Olympic sites,” said aid Jane Buchanan, author of the report. The report is based on interviews with 66 migrant workers in the last four years.

Olympstroi, the agency overseeing the Olympic projects, meanwhile said it was committed to supporting workers' rights. The agency said it had carried out thousands of labour inspections since 2011. So far it received five complaints from workers over pay which, it said, were all addressed.

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