H&M and Next admit Syrian kids found working in Turkish factories

H&M and Next admit Syrian kids found working in Turkish factories

It’s not the first time underage children are found working in factories in Turkey providing clothes to multinational brands. This time under fire are UK clothing brands H&M and Next. Both admitted to have found underage Syrian workers in their factories in Turkey. The Independent said on Monday that the two retailers have confirmed their Turkish manifacturers employed Syrian children in 2015. The claim is backed up with a recent study by the London-based non-profit Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC).

While the UK brands admitted the breach of all ethical and labor practices, the Turkish suppliers denied claims that they were indeed employing children and said they will open their doors for any inspection.

Istanbul Ready-To-Wear and Apparel Exporters Association (IHKIB) in a statement accused the English daily paper to be “ill-intentioned”.

“Such reports are aimed at damaging the ready-to-wear industry, the locomotive of Turkey’s production, employment and exports. I can’t accept that,” ?HK?B Chairman Hikmet Tanr?verdi said. “I invite those accusing Turkey of employing Syrian minors to investigate our 14,000 factories one by one,” Tanr?verdi added.

Istanbul Textile and Raw Materials Exporters’ Union (?TH?B) also slammed the report, labeling it an intimidation campaign that targeted Europe’s second largest manufacturer. “Such accusations ended in the ’90s. Turkey has already grown out of such issues,” ?TH?B Chairman ?smail Gülle said. Factories in Turkey regularly undergo tight inspections and work in compliance with the International’s Labor Organization’s (ILO) standards, he added added.

BHRRC asked 28 leading retailers in January about their suppliers in Turkey and their strategies for fighting underage Syrian employment. While Primark and C&A have said they had identified adult Syrian refugee workers, H&M and Next were said to have noticed Syrian children working in their factories in Turkey.

While the two retailers reportedly declared commitments to take action to put the children in school and to support their families, several other companies failed to answer BHRRC’s questions, sparking concerns that the practice could be more widespread than what the research revealed.

More than 2.2 million Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey since a bloody civil war in their country started in 2011.

The Turkish government promised to give work permits to Syrians as part of an agreement with the EU in early January.

Before the work permit deal, businesses, particularly small enterprises, were revealed to have employed Syrians illegally in order to mitigate labor costs, which have increased due to a recent hike in the minimum wage.

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