We took swift action in 2013 to protect their rights and prevent exploitation of the Syrian refugees in the country.

Turkey is one of our major supplier regions. When our audits began to detect refugee workers in our supply chain we took swift action to protect their rights and prevent exploitation.

Some refugees do not have work permits and end up working illegally, unregistered.  This increases the risk that they will be exploited through poor working conditions, overlong hours and irregular or inadequate wages.

They also become vulnerable to discrimination and degrading treatment, such as being forced to use different toilets or eat their lunch apart from their colleagues.

Teaming up with local non-profit organisations, we set up a remediation plan both to support refugee workers and to enable our suppliers to take corrective action where breaches to our Code of Conduct where found.

The local NGO MUDEM helps us in obtaining work permits for refugees

Our partner, the Refugee Support Center (MUDEM), helps refugees obtain work permits and supports their integration at our factories. Then helps each individual on a case-by-case basis, educating the workers of their rights and the value of obtaining work permits. They offer Turkish language courses and translate important company documentation, such as rules, procedures, and health and safety information. Both the worker and supplier are also supported while the necessary work permit registration is processed.

At the other end of the scale, we are supporting international organisations, such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, Fair Labor Association and Fair Wear Foundation, to persuade the Turkish government to streamline and accelerate access to work permits for Syrian refugees.

We also work with the child education non-profit organisation CYDD to help take immediate measures if underage workers are found. This includes giving children appropriate financial and pastoral support to return to education.

Support to improve conditions

We do not tolerate any form of exploitation in our supply chain. But for other breaches, suppliers and factories have up to six months to make improvements.

Rather than dropping problem suppliers out of hand, we do what we can to support them while they improve conditions. Washing our hands of problems leaves workers vulnerable; following a remedial plan, on the other hand, delivers the best outcomes to them.

If the factory or supplier fails to improve, we sever commercial relations – but our responsibility to vulnerable workers continues. For example, we and our partners will keep trying to obtain work permits and find another job within a complying factory.

We were the first clothing retailer in Turkey to work with partners to implement effective remediation plans, which have now become the model for other retailers in the region.

You can find out more about our work for refugees around the world on our refugee support and emergency relief page, and about our support for Turkish workers generally in our Joint Turkey Programme.