England's World Cup stadium being built by Haitian 'slaves' earning just £5 a day - if they're lucky
Thousands of desperate Haitians fled the devastation of the 2010 earthquake and ended up in Brazil where they are being subjected to imhumane exploitation
External imageExploited: Haitian refugees Onik, Jean-Michel and Ronain
Thousands of miles from their earthquake-devastated homes, three exhausted and hungry Haitian men sit in a tiny, shadowy backstreet room.
Cockroaches scuttle over their bare feet and across the single mouldy mattress on which they take turns to snatch elusive sleep.
Above them a single bulb flickers, dangerously lit by two live mains wires touched together.
But today their plight helps shed a blinding light on a sickening scandal behind the building of the multi-million-pound stadium where England captain Steve Gerrard and his team will play their first World Cup match this summer.
Because a Sunday Mirror investigation reveals these three men, and hundreds of Haitian quake survivors like them, are used as slave labourers – working ten hours every day in a race against time to finish the new Arena Amazonia before the kick-off in June.
But Jean-Michel, Onick and Ronain are the lucky ones – they get paid, even if it is only a shocking £5 a day.
Dad-of-three Ronain, 39, revealed: “We send the money back to our families. But there are many from our country who get jobs at the stadium, work hard to get their wages, then don’t get paid at all.
“They are being badly mistreated.”
In 2011, thousands of desperate Haitian men headed here looking for jobs a year after the enormous quake a year earlier which killed 220,000 people and wrecked the impoverished country.
Brazil allowed many immigrants in and gave them work permits. Since then around 5,000 Haitians have arrived in Manaus where England play Italy on June 14. They dreamed of making good money to send back to their loved ones to help rebuild their lives.
But the brutal reality has been very different. Many claim they have been duped into working for weeks on the £170million stadium without pay.
Others got a fraction of what they were told they would earn.
All were made to work harder and quicker when Brazilian workers went on strike.EyevineExternal imageBig job: The Arena Amazonia under construction in Manaus
Trainee priest Felimon Rodriguez, who works with Haitian refugees in the city, said they often become prey to rogue recruitment companies.
“A firm turned up at one shelter and recruited 18 Haitians to work at the stadium,” he said. “They worked a whole month only to find there was no pay for them. So they left the city.”
Felimon explained that the stadium construction firm, Andrade Gutierrez, outsources work to other companies, who in turn hire “recruitment firms”.
He said: “Many of these firms have sprung up. The Haitians don’t speak the language, or understand their rights. They are destitute.
“When their wage doesn’t arrive they don’t know what to do. So they just move on and the firm who conned them is never found out. There are people here making a lot of money off the backs of vulnerable, hard-working Haitians.”
Sitting in a musty room in crumbling flats, Haitian Jean Clifford, 39, reveals the nightmare working conditions at the stadium where thousands of England fans will gather this summer.
Three months ago he left his wife and five children behind and arrived in Manaus. “I was offered work as a builder’s assistant on 900 reals a month (around £230),” he said. “They told me I would get work insurance and pension.
“I was ecstatic. I called my family to tell them our lives would get better.” Jean Clifford, who shares a room with three others, started work last month – and soon found out he was expected to work in chain gang-like conditions .
He said: “I was made to carry heavy building materials from the ground to the top tier. I would start at 7am and work without a break until 5pm.
“I’m used to hard work but that was exhausting. We didn’t even get a day off. They wanted us working non-stop because they were so far behind schedule.Getty ImagesExternal imageKick off: England captain Steven Gerrard
‘They’d complain if we needed to drink water or go to the toilet. When the Brazilian workers went on strike over their working conditions, the Haitians were made to work even harder. They kept shouting ‘quicker, quicker!’, threatening us with the sack.
“We were treated like slaves. I was told to run up and down carrying heavy materials.
“I could easily have fallen. I didn’t want to lose my job so I did what they said, even though I was risking my life.”
When Jean went to get his wage he was told there was no money and given excuses to keep him working.
After two more weeks without any promised wages he walked out.
He said: “I hope the football fans find out how many Haitians have suffered to build that stadium.”
Godheil Chatelain, told how he was employed to build a road around the Arena Amazonia, and promised £2 per metre. But on payday a fortnight later, the firm just told him to come back in two weeks. He said: “They thought I’d just keep working for no money, but I insisted on being paid. So they sacked me.”
Godheil, 24, kept returning to the firm’s offices demanding his money. He was threatened so he went to police. They eventually paid up – but only £3 a day.
Godheil, who now has a job at a chicken farm elsewhere in Brazil, said: “The people making money from the stadium know we need to find work and they think they can get away with it.
“The Haitians are suffering in silence to build their stadium which will advertise how great Manaus is to the world. I hope the opposite happens: that it will reveal how badly Manaus treats its immigrant workers.”Getty ImagesExternal imageDevastation: The aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti
Construction workers’ union leader Cicero Custodio told us it is not just foreign workers being taken for a ride.
Nearly 60 per cent of the 1,600 men at the Arena Amazonia come from other Brazilian states. They are on far better money than the Haitians – around £680 a month – but many complain of being paid less or not being paid on time.
A union spokesman said: “Often workers are promised decent lodgings and a good wage, but when they get here they have to sleep six to a room and get half of what they were promised.”
Last year Brazilian construction workers at the stadium went on strike over safety conditions after two workers died the same day. One fell 115 feet from the stadium roof. The other died of a heart attack after being told to work harder.
Last night a spokesman for Andrade Gutierrez said: “We have no knowledge of mistreatment or delays of payments to employees.
"The paying of an outsourced employee is the direct responsibility of the company who contracted him.
“We will increase checks to investigate these claims and, if they are proved, we will demand immediate solutions.”
A spokesman for the state of Amazonas said officials “have no knowledge of these practices”, adding that much of the work at the stadium is outsourced and it is “difficult to identify if there is truth in these claims”.