A group of 25 illegal Malian migrants have won over a million euros after taking their employer to court for “systematic racial discrimination”.
The 25 migrant men were employed by subcontractor MT Bat Immeubles at a construction site on the Avenue de Breteuil in Paris. Despite being illegally employed, they were able to sue their employer for discrimination, landing the first win in such a case in French legal history, Le Parisien reports.
Each of the 25 Malians was handed 34,000 euros along with around 3,000 euros in wages for a total of just over one million euros.
The complaints in the case began in September 2016 when a worker fell as a result of poor safety practices, with another worker having his eye injured because he was not wearing proper safety equipment.
A later report from the labour inspectorate and the organisation Défenseur des Droits (Rights Defenders), which combats workplace discrimination, found that the working conditions were inhumane.
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Mes Aline Chanu and Camille Berlan, the lawyers for the migrants, said: “We are in the heart of Paris, with a view of the Invalides, and it is there that 25 undocumented men worked, paid under the table, without the slightest contract, without any protection. No gloves, no safety shoes, no helmets.”
Défenseur des Droits also accused the company of using illegal migrant labour as an interchangeable, replaceable workforce.
“Because, in this profession, they are considered to be an interchangeable workforce: they are called Mamadou! Their chief said to them, moreover: If you are not happy, go home. There are plenty of others,” the group said.
Over the last several years France has seen a surge in illegal migration and asylum seekers, breaking records for the last several years in a row.
In 2019, it is expected that the country will see as many as 140,000 asylum claims, up from 123,000 in 2018.
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