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Refugee Labor


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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  • DrDick

    It is also happening in Thailand and other SE Asian countries. This is just an extension of the companies who hire undocumented workers, but with greater deniability.

  • aturner339

    This is the end result of wrong headed ideas about immigration which seek to limit competition from migrants in the labor markets of reviving countries. It’s the same black market in labor that thrives under the American model only without even the half arsed protections our regulatory regime provides.

    I would suggest that given the american example the most effective means to put a stop to this is simply allowing migrant labor to occur legally.

  • wengler

    No they wouldn’t. Republicans would just insist on making money off the refugee wear made in other countries. The off shoring of labor sources is a net benefit to Republicans. The goal is to automate the rest.

  • Why should they do that when they will soon have an endless supply of cheap of lobor courtesy of Trump’s concentration relocation camps?

    • cpinva

      “Why should they do that when they will soon have an endless supply of cheap of lobor courtesy of Trump’s concentration relocation camps?”

      why do I have visions of undocumented immigrant chain gangs, working on farms/in mills/clothing manufacturing sweat shops? republican congresspersons will be fighting with each other, over whose state gets immigrant detention centers, filled with free laborers. soon enough, we’ll be back to slave labor in fact, if not in law.

  • dbk

    This sounds possible, I’ll ask friends who are involved in the industry in Turkey about it.

    In the meantime, I don’t know what possessed me, but I asked Friend Google where Ivanka Trump’s fashions are made. The answer: China and Hong Kong.

    (In all fairness, nearly all fashion items [like 97%] – clothing, shoes, purses, accessories – are manufactured abroad, so Ivanka is not doing anything different from other American designers.)

    • cpinva

      yeah, Ms. Trump is simply following the herd on this one, and the herd has been going that way for a long time. I do wonder how many countries will have their environments totally screwed up, as the result of using the lack of regulation/lack of enforcement mechanisms as bait, to get foreign investment? they’ll then come to the US, or an international organization mostly/wholly financed by the US, to help them clean up the mess they allowed the foreign manufacturing entities to create. this would be kind of fair (sort of), since our corporations will have created most of the environmental problems. as well, it would certainly be in the corporate tradition of privatizing profits, and making losses/liabilities a public responsibility.

      todays new “public/private partnership” model!

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