A new study by non-profit organisations Fair Action and Future in Our Hands has targeted H&M for not doing enough to prevent discrimination of Syrian migrants and refugees working in their supply chains in Turkey. The report also takes aim at other Nordic fashion brands like Lindex, KappAhl, Gina Tricot and Varner.
As the world's third-largest supplier of clothing after China and Bangladesh, Turkey is also the third biggest non-European exporter of clothing to Sweden and Norway. It is also an important sourcing location for many fashion retailers including H&M.
Although Syrians can legally work in Turkey, data indicates that only 7,000 of the estimated 400,000 Syrians who work there have been able to obtain work permits. This means most Syrian workers are undocumented that makes them prone to working long hours in Turkey’s garment factories coupled with unsafe conditions and wages far below the minimum wage. Adding to this is how Syrians are less likely to complain about low wages and poor working conditions out of fear of losing their only source of income, and because of a lack of access to employment contacts and social security. The study also found that a few Syrian refugees working in the Turkish suppliers’ factories of the retailers mentioned.
The fashion brands often liaise with a third-party organisation to conduct audits at their supplier’s factories which could lead to a conflict of interest. According to the study, the five retailers’ current monitoring processes do not offer an accurate estimate of the exact number of Syrian refugees working in their supply chain in Turkey.
H&M and Varner have taken initiatives to address the issue while Lindex has just begun to do so. Future in Our Hands says, Gina Tricot and KappAhl have not done so yet.