Nordic fashion brands need to tackle abuse of Syrian refugees in Turkish garment factories

published 18-01-2017 07:10, last modified 18-01-2017 09:00
Thousands of Syrian refugees work long hours in Turkey’s apparel factories in unhealthy conditions with salaries below the minimum wage. Despite Turkey being an important sourcing market for the Nordic brands H&M, KappAhl, Lindex, Gina Tricot and Varner (BikBok, Cubus, Carlings et al), the companies are not doing enough to prevent discrimination of Syrians in their supply chains, according to a report by Fair Action and Future in our hands.
Nordic fashion brands need to tackle abuse of Syrian refugees in Turkish garment factories

One of the workers interviewed for the report

Turkey is the world’s third-largest supplier of clothing after China and Bangladesh, and the third-largest non-EU exporter of garments to Sweden and Norway. Although Syrians can now be employed legally in Turkey, only around 7,000 of the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 Syrians who work in the country have obtained work permits. The clear majority of Syrians continues to be undocumented, which means they lack access to employment contracts and social security. They are also unlikely to complain about low wages and excessive working hours to their employers or the authorities, as they are easily laid off and risk losing their only source of income.

Syrian workers are generally earning under minimum wage, and do not get social security. They have to accept any working conditions offered to them and can get dismissed at any time, says Engin Celik, Organising Officer at the Turkish trade union Deriteks, which organises workers in the garment sector.

All five brands included in the study, except for KappAhl, reported that they have identified only a few Syrian refugees working at their Turkish suppliers. There is clearly a gap between the information that the brands obtain about their own supply chains and third-party data, which indicate that Syrians have entered the Turkish garment sector in large numbers. The brands’ monitoring processes do not appear to provide an accurate estimate of the number of Syrian refugees working for their suppliers. Many Syrians work further down the supply chain at subcontractors of the brands’ suppliers. In many cases the supplier has not informed the buying brand about the subcontracting, so called “undeclared subcontracting”.

The brands need to assess their entire supply chain to identify which parts should be prioritised for preventing abuse of Syrian refugees, says Maria Sjödin, author of the report at Fair Action.

The brands’ readiness to handle the risk of abuse and discrimination of Syrian refugees can be divided into three groups: (1) H&M and Varner have taken some steps in the right direction, (2) Lindex has begun addressing the issue and (3) Gina Tricot and KappAhl fail to show that they monitor and attempt to prevent the risks. It is especially surprising that Gina Tricot, which sources 40–45 per cent of its total global purchasing value from Turkey, have not prioritised the issue.

Gina Tricot and KappAhl should immediately engage with their Turkish suppliers, other brands and trade unions in order to adopt an action plan on how Syrian refugees can be protected, says Carin Leffler at Future in our hands.

The report is available .

Filed under: , , ,
See also
Garment workers are waiting for an answer – will H&M deliver on its promise to pay a living wage in 2018? Garment workers are waiting for an answer – will H&M deliver on its promise to pay a living wage in 2018?

Four years ago today, H&M made a bold promise that, if kept, would mean a game changer for the ...

Turkey Factsheet 2014

Factsheet explaining the garment industry in Turkey

Zara, Next, Mango Slammed for Leaving Workers Without Wages in Turkish Factory Zara, Next, Mango Slammed for Leaving Workers Without Wages in Turkish Factory

Workers at the Bravo Tekstil factory complex in Istanbul, Turkey are demanding their back wages and ...

CCC statement on the use of Syrian workers in high street supply chains CCC statement on the use of Syrian workers in high street supply chains

Clean Clothes Campaign welcomes the attention received by the recent BBC Panorama investigation ...

Brands must intervene to win release of imprisoned labour leaders in Bangladesh

Twenty-two human and labour rights organizations from around the world are calling on H&M, C&A, ...

Invisible workers - Syrian refugees in Turkish garment factories

Thousands of Syrian refugees work long hours in Turkey’s apparel factories in unhealthy ...

Bangladeshi garment workers face mass firings and criminal charges

Since last month's wage protests began in Dhaka, Bangladesh thousands of workers along with several ...

CCC condemns escalating repression of unionists amid wage strikes Bangladesh

Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) is today raising concerns about the safety of trade union leaders and ...

CCC reaction to the launch of children’s clothing collection by H&M and WWF CCC reaction to the launch of children’s clothing collection by H&M and WWF

On 29th of September, H&M and WWF have launched a new collection of children’s clothing aimed at ...

Labour rights violations in H&M's "best in class" supplier factories in Cambodia

Working conditions in garment factories in Cambodia supplying H&M are far from decent even in those ...