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Morocco: Labour groups call for immediate investigation after at least 28 garment workers, including a 14-year-old girl, are killed in disaster at informal garment factory

On 8 February 2021, at least 28 garment workers - including a 14-year-old girl - were killed and 17 others injured after becoming trapped in a factory disaster in Tangier, Morocco.

The workers were drowned or electrocuted after a flood caused a short circuit in the informal factory, which employed 130 mostly women workers and operated in an underground garage in a residential area. Residents say the factory had operated for more than 20 years, and question how it had evaded labour inspections.

The incident has raised health and safety concerns within the industry and comes just one month after a fire at another illegal textile factory in Tangier in January, which injured one person and destroyed the factory, where 400 people worked. Tangier is a key hub of Morocco’s textile manufacturing. According to Solidarity Centre, many factories in Morocco’s textile and leather industry operate illegally, forcing workers to labour long hours for low pay in often dangerous conditions. It says illegal factories are a direct response to the demands of the fast fashion industry, with brands making demands on suppliers which creates incentives for unauthorised subcontracting to factories where workers are often subject to further exploitation and labour abuse.

Labour groups are demanding an immediate investigation into the tragedy, and say the government and the employers are fully responsible for the workers’ deaths.

On 17 February, The public prosecutor at the Tangier Court of First Instance has decided to imprison the owner of the factory, and to initiate an investigation that aims to arrest all people involved in the incident for violations of Morocco’s labor law.

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