Forced labour at the Olympics – a different kind of business

In my last blog post, I looked at the possibility that there could be an increase in sex trafficking in East London during the Olympics.

But UK based human rights charity Anti-Slavery International thinks that the problem is more wide ranging than this. They fear that unscrupulous bosses and even criminal gangs could use the Olympics as a cover for exploitation of all kinds.

Paul Donohoe is from the organisation and had this to say….

Photo: vividbreeze/flickr

The Olympics has attracted a lot of investment to East London. And as we get closer to the event itself, there will be an increased need for construction workers, restaurant and hotel staff and casual labour. Paul Donohoe says that people from poorer parts of the world will be attracted by the prospect of earning a decent wage.

They know there will be an increased demand for casual workers and they might believe people who will offer them jobs at good wages and conditions. But he says…

Unfortunately in many cases people are exploited and instead of receiving their promised wages, they are paid a lot less. That wage may then be offset against a transportation and accommodation cost which they have to pay to the employer. This means that people who work are actually paying off more than they earn and end up with no cash at all.

It is not uncommon that at the end of their working time, they are still in debt to their employer which forces them to go home empty handed, if they can return home at all.

He explained that this type of ruse is really common. And the charity’s concern is the risk that the Olympics has in increasing the extent of this problem.

The charity believes that the government is not doing enough. But what is Anti-Slavery International doing to combat the problem?

The charity predicts this could affect other parts of the UK too. Paul Donohoe called it a ‘weird pull factor’. As jobs seemingly become available in East London, people might move from other areas of the country and this could in turn have a vacuum effect. So trafficking and forced labour could increase elsewhere too.


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