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Russia Rounds Up Sochi Games Migrant Workers, Rights Group Says

Russia has detained hundreds of migrants in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, many of whom helped to build facilities for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Human Rights Watch said.

Since early last month, Russian officials have rounded up the workers for alleged violations of migration or employment rules, the New York-based human rights group said today in an e-mailed statement. Many have been kept in “arbitrary and inhuman” conditions and some expelled from Russia, it said.

“It’s outrageous for the migrant workers who helped to build Sochi’s shiny new Olympic venues to be herded into detention and deported,” said Jane Buchanan, associate director for Europe and Central Asia. Ilya Djous, a spokesman for Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who’s in charge of Olympic preparations, said by phone that there haven’t been any “mass violations” of labor or migration rules.

Russia stages the competition in February and has spent about $50 billion, making these the most expensive Winter Games. The project has included road building and a train service to connect the coastal hub to be used for the opening ceremony and ice skating events and the mountains that will host the skiing and downhill competitions.

Construction workers are being exploited and cheated out of their wages, Human Rights Watch said in February. Some employers demanded 12-hour shifts with few days off, withheld passports and work permits and refused to pay promised salaries, the group said.

President Vladimir Putin has sought to attract large international events, including the 2018 soccer World Cup and last year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

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