A textile factory just southeast of Moscow was forcing its migrant Vietnamese workers to produce materials under extremely brutal conditions. The BBC said they uncovered evidence that the workers were forced to live on the factory premises, denied balanced meals and forced to work around 18 hours a day every day of the week.
The BBC also noted that the workers were forced to live in small rooms, huddled together, with no electricity or running water. There were about 75 workers locked into four tiny rooms with bunk beds and no resources. They were forced to share a small amount of water for daily grooming, such as brushing their teeth, and could rarely bathe.
All of the workers who reported the bad treatment are migrants from Vietnam who had hoped they would encounter higher salaries and a good working environment in Russia. Some migrant workers even paid as much as $2,000 to land the job, after receiving promises they would get a good position. The BBC explains how the payment system worked once the workers arrived at the factory situated in the town of Vinaster:
When the migrants arrived in Russia, they were told their salary would be, on average, about $220 per month.
Even this was never paid in full: more than half of the money was withheld by managers as payment for food and accommodation. This made repaying the debt almost impossible.
Less experienced workers were only paid about $100 per month. This meant that the longer they remained employed by the factory, the more debt they accumulated.
Workers were told they could return to Vietnam but only after they had repaid their debts. They were forced to use the little money they made to pay for room and board, which was often minuscule. Many workers also told reporters they experienced regular beatings but Nguen Hung Anh of the Vietnamese embassy claimed there was no substantial proof that workers experienced the maltreatment.
The situation quickly escalated when the workers went on strike. Just weeks later, the Russian migration service conducted a surprise raid on the factory and noted that the conditions bore the marks of criminal offenses.
Surprisingly, police this week announced that the factory owners would not face criminal charges, neither for keeping undocumented workers employed at their facility nor for the abhorrent failure to supply basic humane conditions for those same workers. The factory bosses will only have to pay an administrative fee.
The choice by police and officials is a shocking display of disregard for migrant workers. Although immigration issues have been a hot news item in the United States during election season, it remains apparent that undocumented workers around the world face inhumane working conditions and wages. Very few officials are willing to ensure that these human beings have adequate resources to survive, let alone decent working environments.
Even after the BBC caught graphic footage of the migrant workers’ conditions, officials failed to address the issue at its core. Keep in mind that this is the same government and justice system that condemned three women from the punk group Pussy Riot to two years in prison for a non-violent protest in a Moscow cathedral this year.
Photo Credit: Joel Bradshaw