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High Street Exploitation

25 October 2016 | Billy Thompson

When you next walk into your favourite high street clothes shop, you may want to think twice before buying a nice new woolly jumper, or a pair of skinny jeans.

In a recent BBC Panorama report, refugees from Syria and children, some as young as 10, have been found to be working in many British fashion retailer’s factories. M&S, ASOS and Zara are among those discovered to be exploiting these children.

The BBC programme that aired on 24th October, went undercover in several fashion factories in Turkey to find out the secrets behind the British brand’s suppliers.

Posing as wannabe fashion entrepreneurs, the report made some shocking discoveries. In the first factory they visited, three Syrian refugees were found to be making jeans for high street giants, Mango and Zara. The refugees were working in an extremely unsafe environment, standing directly in front of open flames and using hazardous chemicals to bleach the jeans. Basic safety equipment such as face masks weren’t provided.

In perhaps one of the most shocking discoveries, many Syrian refugees were found to be working in one factory alongside Turkish children as young as 10. The owner of the factory told the reporters that he had been working for British high street retailer, Next, and then went on to show a set of Next pyjamas that had been produced in his factory.

So what have these big British retailers done about this situation? Well they’ve all given a very similar statement claiming that they did not know about the refugees working at the factories and they will be offering legal employment to any Syrian working in these poor conditions.

This is obviously terrible PR for the retailers, as this report is almost certainly going to lose them many customers.

It is likely that the brands didn’t know about who their suppliers employ to work in the factories, however they certainly should have been making more thorough checks to stop this sort of exploitation occurring.