A BBC investigation has found that Syrian refugee children are making clothes for British fashion shops such as Zara, Mango, and Asos under poor conditions.
Panorama also unearthed factories in Turkey, where children were being exploited into making clothes for British retail giant, Marks and Spencer. One factory in particular had allegedly employed a 15 year old boy to iron garments for the retailer before they were shipped off to the UK. The refugee workers were reportedly payed less than £1 a day for 12 hours of work.
In one workshop in the back streets of Istanbul, the programme found several Syrian children working hard on clothes for Asos. According to the BBC, “Asos accepts its clothes were made in the factory, but says it is not an approved factory. The company has since inspected and found 11 Syrian adults and three Syrian children under 16 at work.”
In addition, the clothing giant Zara was found to have refugees working 12-hour days distressing jeans. Those involved with spraying hazardous chemicals to bleach jeans for both Zara and Mango did not even have basic facial protection.
A spokesperson from M&S told the BBC “We do not tolerate such breaches of these principles and we will do all we can to ensure that this does not happen again.”
But while they say it won’t happen again, why did it even happen in the first place?
It is thought that a large number of refugees coming from Syria often have no choice but to work in poor conditions for much less that the minimum wage.
Turkey is the main supplier for UK clothes, due to its position on the edge of Europe being ideal for getting clothes into shops fast.
While high-street brands usually deal with contracted suppliers, they are often overwhelmed with orders and so have to enlist third parties to help make the clothes. It is often through the outsourcing, and then subsequent outsourcing that refugee labour is introduced.
Mango told the BBC documentary that the factory where refugees were found making their clothes was a sub-contractor without its knowledge.
According to Buzzfeed, a spokesperson for Asos “took the issues ‘incredibly seriously and they concern us deeply’”.