Primark ramps up checks on refugee exploitation

Monday 28 March 2016 22.57
Turkey is the third largest supplier of clothing to Europe after China and Bangladesh and the world's biggest host of refugees
Turkey is the third largest supplier of clothing to Europe after China and Bangladesh and the world's biggest host of refugees

Fashion chain Primark has said it has ramped up checks on the factories it uses in Turkey to ensure Syrian refugees are not exploited as part of a growing company policy to ensure workers are fairly treated.

Paul Lister, head of the Irish company's ethical trading team, said the retailer is on a mission to ensure its supply chain is ethical and workers are not exploited - and that consumers know about its efforts.

Primark has said little over the years as it faced accusations of using factories or "sweatshops" in developing nations that employ what would be deemed slave labour in the West to sell T-shirts for as little as £2 (€2.54).

However, Mr Lister said the time was now right for Primark to be more open about its policy to crackdown on worker exploitationand explain how it was able to sell clothes at such low prices.

He said the retailer has this year doubled checks on its 100 or so supplier factories in Turkey amid growing concerns about Syrian refugees who, without a right to work, were vulnerable to abuse.

Turkey is the third largest supplier of clothing to Europe after China and Bangladesh and the world's biggest host of refugees, including about 2.5 million Syrians.

Turkey has come under scrutiny for illegally employing Syrians including in a report earlier this year by corporate ethics watchdog, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

Retailers including H&M, Next, C&A and Primark reported identifying Syrian refugees in their Turkish supply base and detailed their efforts to protect refugee workers as part of the report that questioned 28 retailers.

Mr Lister said Turkey was home to about 100 of the 1,700 supplier factories that Primark uses globally, with worker conditions monitored at all factories globally by 2,500 audits a year and spot checks by his ethics team that will expand this year to 83 from 65.

He said the company had to be more open about its supply chain, particularly after the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh in which 1,135 workers were killed when a complex of five factories supplying global brands - including Primark - collapsed.

 "Rana Plaza was a wake-up call in communication and the need to talk about (the supply chain)," said Mr Lister, who joined Primark's parent company Associated British Foods in 2001.

US welcomes IS loss of Palmyra

The United States State Department has welcomed the victory by Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's forces over the so-called Islamic State group in the historic city of Palmyra.

However, State Department spokesman John Kirby expressed reservations over Mr Assad's ability to "tyrannise the Syrian people". 

Keywords: syria, turkey