News / Europe

    Rights Group: Russia Exploits Sochi Olympic Workers

    In preparation for the 2014 Winter Games at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a hotel is under construction in nearby Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Feb. 4, 2013.
    In preparation for the 2014 Winter Games at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a hotel is under construction in nearby Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Feb. 4, 2013.
    VOA News
    An international rights group has released a report alleging abuse of migrant workers at construction sites for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
     
    Human Rights Watch says many workers reported employers confiscating their passports, cheating them out of wages and requiring them to work 12-hour shifts with few days off.
     
    Entitled Race to the Bottom, the report was based on interviews with 66 migrant workers who came from countries such as Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia and Ukraine to work in Sochi between 2009 and 2012.

    "The Russian government has obligations under national and international law to protect workers, including migrant workers, from abuse," reads an excerpt from the report's summary. "In the case of sites included within the official Olympic program, Russian authorities, including the State Corporation Olympstroy, which is responsible for delivering hundreds of Olympics-related structures and infrastructure projects, have obligations under national and international law to ensure labor protections."
     
    Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says city officials are unaware of any mass abuse of labor law.
     
    "Those who are responsible for this work are the contractors who hired them [migrant workers]," said Pakhomov. "But from the point of view of the mayor's office, I would like to say that not a single complaint to the labor inspection or to the mayor's office was left unanswered. I would tell you that there were two complaints to the mayor's office during all this time."
     
    Human Rights Watch says an estimated 16,000 migrant workers from outside Russia have come to Sochi to work in the construction of Olympic facilities.
     
    They are calling on the International Olympic Committee to take a more active role in ensuring that workers rights are respected. The IOC says it has pledged to monitor the allegations closely and has taken steps to investigate them in Sochi.

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