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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 tension.

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 compatriots.

“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 labor 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 concern, the Labour Inspectorate has created a specialized unit that has been checking nearly one site a day for the past two years.

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