Russia: IOC Acts on Sochi Abuses

Belated Efforts to Compensate Workers; Akhshtyr Village May Get Water in March
human-rights (Moscow) – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken important steps to persuade the Russian government to investigate persistent claims of nonpayment of wages to workers who helped build Olympic venues and infrastructure. The IOC efforts resulted in government pledges that the equivalent of US$8.3 million would be paid in wage arrears. However, the Migration and Law Network, a program run by the Russian human rights organization Memorial, said that it had received complaints from approximately 700 workers that they still had not been paid. Many of the 700 were on a list of 600 workers who had filed complaints about wage arrears and other abuses that the Migration and Law Network and Human Rights Watch shared with the IOC in October 2013.
The agreement also came too late to benefit many workers who had faced similar abuses since Russia began preparing to host the Olympics, Human Rights Watch said. The Sochi Winter Olympic Games began on February 7, 2014. “The exploitation of migrant workers casts a shadow on the Sochi Games’ glittering facade,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “We’re glad the IOC has pressed the Russian government to finally take action, but we’re still concerned about the workers who weren’t paid.” In a February 9 letter to Human Rights Watch, the IOC confirmed that the Russian government had undertaken inspections and uncovered massive wage arrears for many workers on Olympic sites. The letter also responded to Human Rights Watch’s concerns about the village of Akhshtyr, which has had no running water for five years and has been effectively cut off from the rest of Sochi due to Olympic construction, and about the authorities’ refusal to relocate several dozen residents in another location whose homes were made uninhabitable by Olympic preparations.
Starting in 2008, Human Rights Watch has regularly raised concerns with the IOC about abuses linked to the Russian government’s preparations to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Human Rights Watch has conducted extensive research in Sochi since 2009, documenting cases of forced evictions without fair compensation, threats and arrests of journalists and civil society activists, including those documenting environmental damage caused by the Olympics, and exploitation of migrant workers on Olympic venues and other construction sites.
Human Rights Watch informed the IOC about abuses linked to Russia’s hosting of the games because the IOC had made a commitment to take up with host countries evidence it received of abuses linked to Olympics preparations. While the IOC’s late action is important, more workers would have benefited if it had acted sooner, Human Rights Watch said. To continue reading, click here.

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