Refugee children making clothes in Turkish factories, BBC claims

By Staff | News
Posted Oct 24, 2016

Panorama documentary alleges Syrian refugees are working in Turkish factories to make clothes for British shoppers – Adam Lusher, The Independent

Syrian refugee children have been making clothes for Marks & Spencer, it has been claimed. An undercover Panorama investigation of factories in Turkey allegedly found children had been working on clothes for Marks and Spencer and for the online retailer ASOS.

Panorama – Undercover: The Refugees Who Make Our Clothes, to be broadcast on Monday night, will also claim that one factory boasted of making clothes for Next while employing Turkish children and Syrian refugees.

The BBC said it had been told by all of the brands concerned that they carefully monitor their supply chains in Turkey and that they do not tolerate the exploitation of refugees or children.

The Panorama documentary makers, however, claim to have found seven Syrians working in a Turkish factory supplying Marks and Spencer.

The BBC said the refugees often earned little more than a pound an hour, well below the Turkish minimum wage, and were employed through a middleman who paid them in cash on the street.

One of the refugees alleged to the documentary makers that they were poorly treated at the factory, saying: “If anything happens to a Syrian, they will throw him away like a piece of cloth.”

The BBC said the youngest worker was a 15-year-old boy who was working more than 12 hours a day ironing clothes before they were shipped to be sold in UK shops.

A Marks & Spencer spokeswoman told The Independent: “Ethical trading is fundamental to M&S. We are acutely aware of the complexity surrounding Syrian refugees in Turkey. We have a local team on the ground in Turkey who have visited all of our suppliers there. They have also run supplier workshops on the Syrian refugee crisis highlighting the change in labour law and how to legally employ Syrian workers.

“We had previously found no evidence of Syrian workers employed in factories that supply us, so we were very disappointed by these findings, which are extremely serious and are unacceptable to M&S. We are working closely with this supplier to take remedial action, including offering permanent legal employment, in support of any Syrian daily worker who has been employed in this factory.”

She added: “All of our suppliers are contractually required to comply with our global sourcing principles, which cover what we expect and require of them and their treatment of workers.

“We do not tolerate such breaches of these principles and we will do all we can to ensure that this does not happen again.”

The BBC said Panorama reporter Darragh MacIntyre spoke to dozens of Syrian workers who felt they were being exploited. Mr MacIntyre said: “They speak of pitiful wages and terrible working conditions. They know they are being exploited but they know they can do nothing about it.”

In one back-street workshop in Istanbul, the documentary team allegedly found several Syrian child workers. In the office workshop, the documentary team said, they discovered an ASOS sample.

The BBC said ASOS told Panorama it accepted that although its clothes were made in the workshop, it was not a facility that had been approved by the retailer.

The BBC said ASOS subsequently inspected and found 11 Syrian adults and three Syrian children under 16 at work.

Continue to read the story: The Independent

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