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Two weeks ago we featured an extended post on Sochi, where a combination of corporate and government abuse of construction workers–particularly those hailing from outside Russia–has marred the run-up to the Olympic Winter Games.

Since then, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released an article on the exploitation and subsequent deportation of Serbs working in Sochi, a case that we also covered here. The RFE/RL piece further emphasizes the very blurry lines between Sochi-based construction contractors, Russia’s Federal Migration Service, and other unidentifiable groups who worked together to accomplish combinations of the following:

  1. Bring foreign workers, from Southeastern Europe, Turkey, and (much more typically) from former Soviet Central Asia, albeit without work permit.
  2. Facilitate trips across the Russia-Georgia border (or, if you like, the Russia-Abkhazia border, as the former recognizes the latter as an independent nation) to provide a semblance of legality, ie, renewed passport stamps.
  3. Ensure workers’ ultimate arrest and expulsion by Russian authorities, often for lack of work permits or papers, and usually before said workers have been fully or even partially compensated for months of labor performed.

According to REF/RL, the Serbian Embassy recently arranged an emergency flight to evacuate 123 Serbian and Bosnia-Herzegovinian citizens after they were detained by migration authorities, and on January 23, Serbian police arrested Serbian national Dusan Kukic, the owner of a Cacak-based recruiting firm that arranged work for Serbs in Sochi. The fate of many thousands of Central Asian and other laborers remains less clear. An (English language) web search identified the February 2013 Human Rights Watch Report on labor exploitation at Sochi and few other sources.

Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), an organization working to raise worldwide awareness of labor abuses in Sochi, Brazil (in the lead-up to this summer’s World Cup football tournament) and Qatar (set to host the World Cup 2022), has published an official condemnation of the treatment of Sochi workers. BWI addresses both the Russian government and the International Olympics Committee, criticizing the subjection of workers to withheld pay and unsafe living and working conditions. (BWI estimates that 60 workers have died building Olympic venues in Sochi, while the Russian government’s official statistics are about half that).

BWI is worried about a Sochi “repeat” across the 11 Russian cities slated to host World Cup matches in 2018 (yes, that’s right, new event, same Russia). A Mother Jones article from October connected the dots between Russia, Brazil, and Qatar, and I’ve also written on the subject. It is now more apparent than ever that when it comes to major international sporting events, labor exploitation is just one of many human rights-related concerns that should raise eyebrows among athletes and fans alike.

(Thanks to Tos Añonuevo, BWI Education Secretary, for the link above.)

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