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Undocumented workers from Paris 2024 Olympic sites speak out

Greenwatch News Desk Other Sports 2023-01-20, 10:51pm

PARIS, 20 Jan  - Gaye Sarambounou is used to toiling long days

for a pittance. He's a Malian living in France with no working papers, but
it's a situation that occurs around the world.

The difference here is that Sarambounou is one of an army of construction
workers preparing next year's Olympic Games in Paris.

The fact that France's upcoming sporting showcase is being put together with
the help of illegal workers is becoming a source of political and social

For three months Sarambounou, 41, worked between eight- and 11-hour shifts
for 80 euros per day.

Obviously, "overtime was never paid," he said ruefully.

"I accepted because I know my situation. If you don't have papers, you do all
the hard work, all the crappy jobs. You have no choice," he said as he boiled
water on a stove on the floor of the tiny room he shares with four

"Everyone knows what's going on, but nobody talks about it", said a smiling
Sarambounou, who was kicked off an Olympic building site last year after a
raid by labour inspectors.

Trade unionist Bernard Thibault, who co-chairs the Paris 2024 Social Charter
Monitoring Committee says there is "a great deal of hypocrisy on the part of
the political authorities".

As a sign of the concern, the Labour Inspectorate has created a specialised
unit that has been checking nearly one site a day for the past two years.

In June, nine irregular workers were identified on a site run by Solideo, the
public company responsible for building facilities and infrastructure for the

At the same time, a local public prosecutor's office opened a preliminary
investigation into the "employment of foreigners without a permit in an
organised gang".

Solideo swiftly "took the necessary steps" by terminating the contract of the
offending subcontractor but also of the construction giant that used it, said
Antoine du Souich, the company's strategy director.

Since then procedures have been tightened up, he assured, while admitting
it's impossible to set up a system "entirely impervious" to such fraud.

"All these beautiful stadiums are built by poor people... who are exploited,"
said another Malian worker, who requested anonymity.

"It's always 80 percent immigrants who do the work. You see Malians,
Portuguese, Turks. And the French... in the offices!" he added.

The Malian workers want nothing more than to be regularised, so they don't
have to live in fear of an identity check.

The left-wing CGT union is preparing to submit an application for Sarambounou
to receive his working papers.

If he gets those within 18 months, the recent hardships will seem like
nothing more than a bad dream, he says.

"I'll be legal for the Games!"