When Mohamed was employed on the building website for the United Nations’ new West Africa headquarters in Senegal, he was proud to say he can be working “not just for Africa, however for the world.”
The 25-year-old Sierra Leonean was a plumber on the location, the centrepiece of what’s meant to be a futuristic metropolis boasting an Olympic stadium, ministries and a commuter practice line working 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the capital Dakar.
However 9 months in the past, Mohamed’s desires evaporated when an air conditioner he was putting in fell on his palms, slicing off a part of a finger and damaging a thumb.
Not so dextrous, he says he was fired with out pay and unable to search out regular work.
His story is way from distinctive.
Younger males from Sierra Leone, Guinea and even distant Nigeria have flocked to Diamniadio, lured by the imaginative and prescient of a good job and pay in a steady forex. They’re amongst hundreds of labourers toiling on building websites throughout the budding metropolis.
AFP spoke to greater than a dozen migrant employees.
Every recounted a lifetime of excessive hardship, residing in decrepit shared lodging hours from the development websites, working infinite days for minimal pay, and haunted by worry of harm that might depart them penniless.
“They instructed us that our wage is the worth of our soul… In a phrase, it’s slavery,” mentioned Alpha, a Guinean metal erector. Like all the employees AFP met, his household title is being saved nameless, and his first title has been modified.
The Chinese language-owned agency WIETC, on the centre of lots of their accusations, denied any abuse and mentioned it stringently upheld Senegal’s legal guidelines.
– 13-hour days –
Over the previous decade, a once-fertile agricultural zone in Diamniadio has been changed by large building websites, a mission spearheaded by President Macky Sall to ease congestion in Dakar and modernise Senegal’s picture.
The UN workplace, a public-private partnership between Senegalese entities, is a dramatic 60,000-square-metre (650,000 square-feet) construction within the form of a whirling star.
It is without doubt one of the new metropolis’s keystone tasks, together with the Dakar Diamniadio Sports activities Metropolis, a non-public mission that can characteristic a luxurious resort, eating places and retailers.
However labourers who had labored on each websites instructed AFP they typically labored there as many as 13 hours a day, seven days every week, and had been paid the equal of about $7 per day or much less.
The Senegalese labour code stipulates one 24-hour interval off per week. The minimal wage for low-skilled labourers in Senegal’s building business ranges from 378 CFA ($0.60) to 658 CFA ($1.04) per hour.
“These are clearly inhumane situations,” mentioned Seydi Gassama, head of Amnesty Worldwide in Senegal. “All employees ought to be capable of work and have days off, whether or not they’re Senegalese or worldwide residents.”
Some mentioned they walked as a lot as two hours every option to get to work.
All the employees AFP met mentioned that they had not signed any contract, and had been provided no help after they had been injured.
On a go to to Diamniadio late final yr, AFP met Bakary, a Sierra Leonean who had been working at Sports activities Metropolis and bore marks from being hit within the head by gear the day earlier than.
He mentioned he was despatched residence with out pay and instructed to return the next day or be fired. He mentioned his superiors didn’t take him to the physician or pay for any medicine.
“They’re very vile and shout at and insult the employees — even in case you are exhausted they drive you to do it, in case you are injured they do not maintain you,” mentioned Alpha.
Others mentioned that they had been bodily abused.
“Daily… they shout, shout, hit you, abuse you,” mentioned Ibrahim, a 26-year-old labourer, who like Bakary and Alpha had labored on the Sports activities Metropolis website.
If a employee misunderstands a supervisor, he mentioned, they “will come and push you, hit you, punch you… For those who punch him again, you get sacked, so when he punch, you simply must swallow it, bear it and work.”
– Labour legal guidelines –
Most of the allegations touched on remedy by WIETC, which was contracted to construct each the UN advanced and Sports activities Metropolis.
In a written response to AFP, WIETC’s West Africa basic supervisor mentioned his firm had complied totally with Senegalese laws.
All workers had been declared to the Senegalese Social Safety Fund, and any who had been injured at work had been coated for medical remedy and paid till their restoration, He Shenjian mentioned.
As for additional time, he mentioned night and weekend work was “distinctive” and solely occurred when employees “freely consent to take part,” although the migrants interviewed mentioned there was no selection.
Madani Tall, the developer of each websites, mentioned he was not conscious of any allegations earlier than AFP had raised them.
He referred to the employees as day labourers, although they instructed AFP that their hours had been logged they usually had been paid month-to-month.
“Senegalese legislation doesn’t require a contract for a day labourer,” Tall mentioned.
Having itinerant day labourers, he added, “is one thing that’s not explicit to Senegal — it is what you could have on all of the websites,” together with in the US and Europe.
However Senegalese authorized agency Geni & Kebe mentioned the nation’s legal guidelines require a contract for day labourers — and if no written contract is signed, the legislation considers employees to have open-ended contracts topic to statutory discover intervals and different advantages.
“I have no idea of a single mission anyplace on this planet, not to mention in Senegal, that may signal a everlasting working contract for (low-skilled) every day employees,” Tall mentioned.
In line with the Worldwide Labour Group (ILO), 9 out of 10 employees are in casual employment in Senegal.
Tall and He confirmed there have been two deaths on the UN website, one linked to an epileptic seizure and the opposite attributable to an accident on website.
A spokeswoman for a authorities workplace referred to as the DGPU, which manages Diamniadio’s growth, mentioned that what occurred on the websites shouldn’t be its duty.
A spokesman for the United Nations Workplace for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) directed AFP to the UN Resident Coordinator for Senegal, Siaka Coulibaly. He didn’t reply to 3 emailed requests for remark.
– ‘Disgrace’ –
Migrants mentioned they despatched as a lot as half of their earnings residence to their households — and felt responsible after they might ship nothing in any respect.
Mohamed, the plumber, had needed to check enterprise administration however left highschool when his father died.
Now, he can not help his farmer mom and three sisters.
He mentioned he want to deliver his case to the police, however worries that as an English-speaking foreigner with no paperwork proving his accident, he shall be dismissed.
“If I’m going again (residence), I haven’t got something — it could be a really huge disgrace on me,” Mohamed mentioned.
“A few of my buddies have married, some have settled down… I’ve not even received a girlfriend but.”