The Clothes You're Wearing May Have Been Illegally Made By Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugees in Turkey are being exploited by factories that supply popular western clothing chains, according to an explosive investigation broadcast Monday.

The BBC’s “Panorama,” an investigative TV show, went undercover in Turkish factories where they found children illegally sewing garments for British retailer Marks & Spencer as well as Asos, an e-commerce site. They found adult refugees making clothing for Zara and Mango.

Since most refugees can’t legally work in Turkey, those in the report had been employed through a middleman who paid them ― often less than $1 per day ― in cash, the report added. 

The youngest refugee worker, a 15-year-old boy, “Panorama” came across worked more than 12 hours a day ironing clothes. Other tasks included refugees spraying hazardous chemicals without any face masks.

The brands mentioned in the report denied the claims.

“All the brands say they carefully monitor their supply chains and do not tolerate the exploitation of refugees or children,” the BBC report said.

“We had previously found no evidence of Syrian workers employed in factories that supply us, so we were very disappointed by these findings, which are extremely serious and are unacceptable,” a Marks & Spencer spokesperson told The Huffington Post.

The company said it won’t tolerate unethical practices and is working to offer permanent legal employment to all Syrian workers in its factories.

Mango, meanwhile, said in a statement that the factory implicated in the report, Goreteks Tekstill, was actually sub-contracted unknowingly. 

“Under no circumstances was the use of child labor or Syrian workers detected” after performing an audit of the factory, the statement said, adding that Mango is investigating the claims.

Currently, almost 3 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey, according to U.N. Refugee Agency data. The ongoing conflict in Syria has forced many to flee for border countries where making a living is often virtually impossible. Turkey is in the process of building a cement wall along its entire border with Syria to stem the refugee inflow. 

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