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Syrian refugees working in Turkey - vulnerable to exploitation

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20 September 2017

Turkey: Syrian refugee child labour commonplace in garment factories, agriculture & on streets, despite easier access to work permits & formal employment for adults

Author: Laura Pitel, Financial Times

A day on the factory floor with a young Syrian refugee

At 6am, seven-year-old Mohammed Nour Abdullah sets out for work. Please use the sharing tools found via the email icon at the top of articles. Inside is a workshop the size of a large classroom. All day long it buzzes with the whirr and thrum of machinery and the tinny sound of pop music played from a mobile phone... Mohammed Nour’s job is to turn the finished jeans the right way around, stuffing his thin arms down each leg and pulling it inside out. He does this for 12 hours a day, Monday to Saturday — a 72-hour week for which he earns TL50 ($15)...In Gaziantep, a major Turkish textiles hub, many Syrians are employed in small workshops that act as subcontractors for larger factories. They produce shoes and clothes that are sold across Turkey, the Middle East and Europe, part of a textile industry worth $40bn a year...

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13 March 2017

Turkey: How do Syrian refugee workers challenge supply chain management in garment industry?

Author: Emre Eren Korkmaz, International Migration Institute, University of Oxford

"How do Syrian refugee workers challenge supply chain management in the Turkish garment industry?"

[...] In this paper, a general picture of the employment of Syrian refugees in Turkey will be provided...it is important to understand the relations between the informal and formal sectors in Turkey and how such relations have affected the survival strategies of Syrian refugees...one should analyse how the participation of Syrian refugees in the informal economy has changed these historical relations between formal and informal employment in the Turkish textile-apparel sector. Rather than solely objectifying refugees as a vulnerable group, paying attention to their contribution to industrial relations is crucial in order to acknowledge refugees as active agents capable of changing their lives and the structures within which they operate. Syrian refugees follow a survival strategy based on their social networks that also affects and changes the living and working conditions of local people, as well as existing labour relations...The aim of this paper is to clarify the reasons behind the low level of applications for work permits from Syrian refugees residing in Turkey in 2016...[and] to understand the factors that lead to an unwillingness of behalf of employers to legally employ Syrian refugees.[...]

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27 February 2017

Turkey: Positive steps to facilitate access to decent work to Syrian refugees, but reality still challenging

Author: Rasha Faek, Al-Fanar Media

Turkey Sends Mixed Signals to Syrian Job Seekers, 25 February 2017

A year ago, the Turkish government said it would give work permits to Syrians in the country. But the majority of Syrians are still unemployed, despite an expanding Turkish economy… Turkey is among of the world’s most sympathetic countries to Syrians; it has received more than 2,854,968 Syrian refugees, according to the latest statistics from the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)... On January 15, 2016, the government began allowing Syrians who had been registered for at least six months with Turkey’s labor protection system to work in the city where their document was issued… The law forbids paying Syrian workers less than the minimum annual salary for Turks, and requires employers to provide their Syrian employees with the same employee benefits as Turkish ones. That requirement is in contrast to where Syrians usually do not get the same benefits as citizens.

Despite these favorable conditions, Ayham and many other Syrians work illegally in Turkey, and the reality they face is very different from the one envisioned by Turkish law…the majority of the Syrians [Ayham] knows work long hours at wages less than the official monthly minimum wage – which is about 1,200 Turkish lira ($325). In many cases, employers will withhold the wages of Syrians or pay them irregularly, multiple sources told Al-Fanar Media. Syrians are afraid to go to the police to file a complaint because they work illegally. The first-time fine for illegal work is 600 Turkish lira ($163) and must be paid by the employer, according to the law.

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18 December 2016

Turkey: Exploitation of Syrian refugees and seasonal farm workers

Author: Diego Cupolo, IRIN


The never-ending harvest: Syrian refugees exploited on Turkish farms, 15 December 2016

“When we don’t get paid, we get very creative with the little food we have,” [says Emine Sahin, a Syrian refugee and a mother of eight] Now, like most of the 150,000 Syrian refugees registered in [the Turkish province of] Adana, she and her family are dependent on seasonal farm work to sustain themselves … exploitation of the Syrians, who now make up 85 percent of the agricultural workforce in Adana, is rampant and they live in isolated tent settlements far from schools and health facilities. Almost half of the school-aged Syrian children living here work in the fields…

According to a new study by the Ankara-based Development Workshop, Syrian agricultural labourers in Adana work an average of 11 hours a day for 38 Turkish lira ($11), about two thirds what Turks earn for the same work. The study, which was funded by the EU’s emergency aid department, ECHO, found Syrian workers often had to wait several months after bringing in a harvest before getting paid… New legislation was introduced in 2016 that, on paper at least, allows Syrians to apply for work permits. But the agricultural and animal-rearing sectors are exempt from needing permits. The result is that Syrian farm labourers are not covered by basic labour laws and are left at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.

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16 May 2016

Child labour and low wages face Syrian refugees in the garment industry in Turkey (photo series)

Author: ArabianBusiness.com


Syrian refugees trying to survive in Turkey work for minimum wages

Since fleeing the war and after the new EU - Turkey deal effectively shutting down routes to Europe for many Syrian refugees, living in Turkey has become their only option, however there is very little stable work and little hope of building a future. Turkey's massive and largely unregulated garment industry is an attractive option for Syrians to work both legally and illegally despite low wages, long hours and poor conditions. It is a popular choice for Syrians living outside of the official refugee camps, who are offered no assistance from the state. Child labour amongst Syrian refugees is also a major concern, with children between the ages of 7-10yrs often working in clothing and shoe factories on shifts longer than 10 hours, earning them approximately 400TL per month (135USD) well below the Turkish minimum wage of 1,647TL a month (554USD). For many children working in garment factories is their only choice as many have lost their father's, uncles, and brothers to the war and now find themselves as the head of the family... Turkey's garment industry is a massive supplier to both Europe and the Middle East, as part of the EU -Turkey deal it was announced that Syrians who had been in the country for more than six months would be able to apply for a work permit allowing them to receive the minimum wage and some work benefits, which would aim at protecting workers from discrimination.

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3 December 2015

Turkey: Around 250,000 Syrians working illegally in Turkey - at risk of exploitation

Author: Reuters

As Turkey prepares to give more Syrians the right to work, thousands of Turkish bosses are already benefiting from cheap and illegal Syrian labour, raising concerns about the treatment of vulnerable members of the world's largest refugee community.

But while low wages have brought suggestions that Syrians are being exploited, some fear they could be priced out of the labour market once new laws are introduced -- a dilemma that has prompted questions about efforts to integrate them into Turkish society...

...Around 250,000 Syrians are now working illegally in Turkey, an expert from the Centre for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) estimates...

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18 November 2015

Turkish bosses could exploit Syrian labour amid obligatory wage hike, experts warn

Author: Furkan Demirdoven, Today's Zaman

"Turkish bosses could exploit Syrian labor amid obligatory wage hike, experts warn", 14 November 2015

In an ambitious competition with opposition parties prior to the Nov. 1 election, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) vowed to raise the base wage from TL 1,000 ($347) to TL 1,300. While there was no discussion on who would be responsible for covering the increased employment expenses, once the AK Party clinched the majority of votes, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said employers will have to shoulder most of the burden. Business unions, however, have begun to voice their concerns about the possible increase in their costs, seeking alternative ways to compromise on the hike. İbrahim Çağlar, the chairman of the İstanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO), said a 30 percent increase in the minimum wage would cost employers an extra TL 16 billion a year and requested that the government reduce social security premiums....

Amidst all the debates, Sami Karahan, a professor of commercial law at Marmara University, tweeted on Wednesday in a veiled criticism of the government's policy during the Syrian crisis: “Nobody will give TL 1,800 in gross wages to a worker when they can employ a government-backed Syrian for TL 600 all-inclusive”...

Even though the government allowed Syrian minors access to the Turkish schooling system, more than 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey are not able to attend school, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report last Sunday. “He works eleven-hour daily shifts at a garment workshop where he earns 50 Turkish lira (approximately US$18) per week,” the report said, highlighting the dismal state of 9-year-old Mohammed, who escaped Aleppo to arrive in Mersin early this year. Featuring the stories of many other Syrian children, the report disclosed a newly emerged trend in which companies even exploit the workforce of minors apart from working-age Syrians to benefit from lower employment costs. A research study initiated by the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) and the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) said in January that some 200,000, or one out of 10 Syrians, were working in Turkey, most of whom are said to be employed without social security insurance...

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16 October 2015

Turkey: Syrian refugee children forced into labour

Author: CBS

"Refugee children forced into labor in Turkey",  22 September 2015

The European Union on Tuesday approved a quota system for relocating 120,000 refugees across the continent. It's just a fraction of those who have surged into Europe to escape war and poverty -- many from Syria. In a basement in Istanbul, a textile factory hums with activity -- staffed almost entirely with Syrian children. Filming with a hidden camera, CBS News found workshop after workshop in Turkey's biggest city -- all using Syrian refugees -- some as young as 10...

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5 March 2015

Participation of Foreigners in the Turkish Labor Market Under the Temporary Protection Act" - Roundtable Summary & Outcomes Report

Author: Fair Labor Association, Ethical Trading Initiative

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