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Refugee Labor

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turkey refugees II

Maybe Republicans will rethink allowing refugees from Muslims nations into the United States if they can exploit their labor for nothing, like is happening in Turkey thanks to our benevolent apparel firms and their supply chains.

But child laborers are not the only issue in textile workshops in Turkey. The illegal hiring of refugees is another.

On paper, everything looks clean. There is a strict contract between the giant brand that has its clothes produced in Turkey and the supplier. The contract concerns the legal circumstances in workshops where production is made, and all brands are required to ensure that all workshops comply with all legal conditions.

But illegal or child laborers can still be spotted in these workshops. The workshop management mentality in Turkey rarely complies with such written conditions. Certain brands that know this do not trust suppliers or workshops and monitor workshops themselves. Often, when they raid workshops in their production chain they find several illegal refugees working under adverse conditions.

Some textile firms claim “there are no illegally hired refugees in our workshops.” But this is shown to be untrue when you visit their workshops. If the brand says: “I have given verbal warnings to the supplier, there is no such issue in the workshops that are producing for us,” but does not monitor the workshops, it means that it is ignoring this fact even though it knows about it.

Several responsible brands, when they determine illegally hired refugees in the textile workshops they monitor, tell their suppliers that they will provide an improvement process for these workers that the workshop must comply with or face losing the contract.

When the brand says it will quit, it means it will leave together with the workers in that workshop. The brand does not leave the workers alone and can transfer them to the workshop of another supplier.

As these are giant firms, they have serious power when they send such ultimatums to their suppliers.

Four big brands, including the Zara Group’s Indietex, are conducting an improvement process together with the Refugee Support Center (MUDEM).

Brands can tell suppliers to immediately obtain work permit for the refugees they employ, and this partnership with MUDEM is useful if they do not trust their suppliers.

As soon as the brand informs MUDEM that a refugee is illegally employed at a workshop, that person is interviewed by MUDEM, which examines the situation and informs workers of their rights. Hardly any of them know their rights. They accept working for 800 to 900 Turkish Liras a month because they do not know about the minimum wage.

While I think we all agree that we’d like a little more sourcing and specific examples in this piece, when seeking information about global labor exploitation, these are the compromises we have to deal with. And the piece is really informative on how the broader system works.

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