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Undocumented Migrant Workers Are Building the Venues for the 2024 Paris Olympics— Are We Going To Boycott That Too?

Can we stop having huge sporting events built with semi-slave labor?

Last week, some alarming facts regarding the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics were brought to light. French newspaper Le Monde published a report that revealed that at least a dozen undocumented migrant employees were involved in the construction of the Athletes Village in the Parisian suburb of St. Denis, north of the capital, which will accommodate around 14,000 athletes and club members in two years.

The French publication met with some of these workers employed in the construction of the Athletes Village, who revealed that they are severely underpaid, overworked, and have no contracts, pay slips, or vacations. Most of these migrant workers who were hired as laborers to take on various tasks such as laying bricks, mixing concrete, or digging, are of Arab, West African, Portuguese, and Turkish descent.  

“We’re here to survive, we have no choice, even if things don’t go the way we wanted, we won’t give up,” one of the migrant workers testified. “My bosses don’t care. If you send a picture of your documents via WhatsApp, you will receive an entry pass.” These residence papers often come from compatriots in a regular situation, who then collect part of the salary (which is 80 euros per day, no matter how long the work day is) in return. 

Unionist Jean-Albert Guidou of the CGT told Le Monde that the subcontracting companies who are not following the rules are to blame. Meanwhile, it’s not the first time that the issue of using illegal workers for the 2024 Olympic games raised some flags in recent months. In March, the French labor inspectorate carried out an investigation into construction sites for the next Olympic Games and discovered that seven Malians were working illegally for a subcontractor. Shortly after, four other illegal migrant workers reported to the CGT union that they also worked without papers.

The newspaper’s shocking findings mirror the human right’s issues rightfully causing a stir around the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where it has been reported that over 6,000 mostly South Asian migrant workers have lost their lives building the stadiums where the games are being played during the football tournament. But, unlike Qatar, which shipped in the migrant workers specifically to construct the stadiums, many of the undocumented laborers have been living and working in France without papers for at least a decade or more. 

Still, both sporting events serve as harrowing reminders that business owners will not hesitate to hire and exploit migrants for far cheaper wages while wealthy corporations and politicians turn a blind eye. Whether the upcoming Paris Olympics will receive the same backlash as the World Cup in Qatar remains to be seen.

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