European chains ‘profit on back of Syrian refugees in Turkish factories’

Syrian refugee boys seen working at a small textile factory in Gaziantep, Turkey, in this July 2016 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 03 November 2017

European chains ‘profit on back of Syrian refugees in Turkish factories’

LONDON: Some of Europe’s biggest stores are failing to stem the abuse of Syrian refugees who work in the Turkish factories that supply their clothes, a business pressure group said on Friday.
The Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) called on the worst offenders — from fashion icon Topshop to discounter Aldi — to better protect refugee workers who have fled war only to suffer workplace exploitation in their new home.
Low wages, discrimination and poor conditions are common for Syrian refugees working in Turkey’s multibillion-dollar garment industry, where child labor is also a problem, said the BHRRC.
“Some high street fashion brands ... have made progress in protecting workers, but too many, like Aldi, Asda and Topshop, are lagging way behind,” Phil Bloomer, executive director of the BHRRC, said in a statement.
“They should learn from the leaders, and quickly.”
The Britain-based charity surveyed 37 major European brands with Turkish factories in their supply chains on the policies and practices undertaken to tackle the abuse of workers.
Companies including supermarket chains Aldi and Asda and fashion retailer Arcadia — which owns the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge brands — are not doing enough to stop the exploitation, the BHRRC survey found.
ASOS, New Look, Next, SuperDry and Zara were the top ranking brands in the survey; Asda and Arcadia came bottom. Six companies, including Mexx and River Island, failed to respond.
The charity said more brands had boosted efforts to clean up their supply chains compared to last year, with the top performers establishing plans to protect refugees, mechanisms to handle complaints, and initiating dialogue with workers’ groups.
More than 3 million Syrian refugees — about half aged under 18 — have fled to Turkey to escape a war that erupted in 2011.
About 650,000 are estimated to be working in Turkey, many in the garment industry, yet most lack work permits, leaving them at greater risk of abuse, the BHRRC said.
A Reuters investigation last year found evidence of Syrian refugee children in Turkey working in clothes factories in illegal conditions. Turkey bans children under 15 from working.
“The Syrian refugee crisis poses a complex challenge for retailers sourcing garments from Turkey,” said Peter McAllister, head of the Ethical Trading Initiative, an alliance of trade unions, firms and charities promoting workers’ rights.
“Refugees are particularly vulnerable to exploitation,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “More needs to be done, but we are confident our member companies are taking it seriously.”
A spokesman for Walmart, which owns Asda, said the company was exploring how to address the risks to vulnerable workers in its global supply chain, with a focus on ethical recruitment.
The British Retail Consortium, which counts Aldi among its members, said more needed to be done to prevent exploitation.
The chairman of the Istanbul Apparel Exporters’ Association, which represents three-quarters of Turkey’s clothing exporters, said Syrian refugee workers holding work permits were protected by the country’s “very strict laws” on working regulations.
“Portraying a few exceptional cases that could happen even in the most developed countries around the world as Turkey’s reality is not befitting of fairness and good intentions,” Hikmet Tanriverdi said in a statement on Friday.
Topshop declined to comment on the BHRRC survey, Arcadia did not respond to requests for comment, and Mexx and River Island could not be reached.

China flags up UAE as Silk Road mega-hub with $300m port deal

Updated 41 min 27 sec ago

China flags up UAE as Silk Road mega-hub with $300m port deal

  • Cosco has invested an initial $300 million in CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal
  • The expansion plan foresees a capacity of 9.1 million TEU by 2023

ABU DHABI: China, the world largest trading nation, has thrown its weight behind Abu Dhabi as the Middle East hub for its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in an alliance with the UAE capital’s Khalifa Port.

Cosco, the Shanghai-based, state-owned group that ranks among the biggest shipping companies in the world, has invested an initial $300 million in the CSP Abu Dhabi Terminal, the first step in an investment program that could help make it one of the biggest ports in the Arabian Gulf over the next five years. Additional investment is pledged.

The expansion plan foresees a capacity of 9.1 million TEU (20-foot equivalent units, the standard measurement in the global container industry) by 2023. Jebel Ali, just 50 km away in Dubai, is currently by far the biggest port in the region with capacity of 22.1 million TEU.

China’s BRI is a state-sponsored strategy to enhance land and sea trading infrastructure in Asia, the Middle East and Africa via multibillion-dollar investments in trading hubs across the eastern hemisphere.

The Cosco-Abu Dhabi deal was unveiled at a ceremony at the port attended by prominent UAE and Chinese leaders.

Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court, said: “China and the UAE share a strong and long-standing bond across a variety of ties, including economic, cultural, and trade and investment, and a common vision of a stable and prosperous future for our peoples and the world.”

He Jianzhong, China’s deputy minister of transport, said: “(The) terminal is the latest major achievement from China and the UAE’s joint efforts to implement ‘the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road’ in the ports and shipping industry.”

The deepwater, semi-automated container terminal includes the largest container freight station in the Middle East, covering 275,000 square meters.

“The state-of-the-art facility offers facilities for full and partial bonded container shipments, the full range of container packing services, short-term warehousing for deconsolidated cargo, as well as easy connectivity with container terminals in Khalifa Port,” a joint statement said.

The terminal has a design capacity of 2.5 million TEU and will begin with a handling capacity of 1.5 million TEU, with 1,200 meters of quayside. The water depth of the terminal is 16.5 meters, allowing it to accommodate mega-vessels typically carrying in excess of 20,000 TEU.

Ning Jizhe, deputy director of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, a state planning organization, said: “This inauguration ceremony is not only a milestone in the cooperation of China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative,’ but also a good start for China and the UAE’s pragmatic cooperation in other key areas.”

Trade ties have been growing between China and the UAE since a visit by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to Beijing three years ago. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UAE last summer.

The deal with Cosco is aimed at attracting foreign investment into the UAE via the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (KIZAD), the huge logistics and manufacturing zone that borders the port.

China’s BRI is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in history, but has been criticized by some observers for leaving the partners of Chinese companies in debt.