Press Releases

Organizations relying on supply chains that involve workers in Turkey need to be aware of the Turkish Government’s efforts to address the issue of worker status. With more than two million refugees from Syria now based in Turkey, the government wants to protect them from exploitation and present legal employment opportunities.

The Situation On The Ground

In August 2016, it was estimated that 400,000 of Turkey’s Syrian refugees were working illegally. A further 7,000 had work permits, but few had passports or other documentation.

Initially, the Turkish authorities required the refugees to enter 25 camps in 10 cities across the country. However, in reality, many have traveled elsewhere in search of work - mostly within the textiles industry, as it requires few additional skills. A significant number also work in agriculture.

Some consumer goods brands operating in, or buying from Turkey, have sought to eliminate the use of illegal Syrian works by their subcontractors. Others are committed to supporting refugee labor in factories and farms as long as illegal working and exploitation are addressed.

Tackling Exploitation

Unfortunately, some factories and farms have chosen to use illegal workers because they are cheaper to employ: they are paid minimal wages, require no social security payments and receive no training. These workers are also at greater risk of experiencing poor working conditions and long working hours.

In response, the Turkish government is taking a new approach to Syrian migrant workers: to legalize and integrate them.

In January 2016, the country’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MoL) published its Regulation on Work Permits for Foreigners under Temporary Protection, as well as guidance documents informing employers of how to register workers. Under this regulation, migrants with temporary protected status were able to acquire a work permit after six months’ residence (and subject to a limit of 10% of a given company’s workforce).

A new regulation applying specifically to Syrian migrant workers was published in April 2016: the Regulation on Working by People Who Have International Protected Status and People Who Have International Protection Application.

The Turkish authorities are also focusing on the integration of Syrian refugees through the provision of training and education, especially lessons in the Turkish language. With the EU, it has co-funded SYRIANS – Social Inclusion of Syrians under Temporary Protection in Turkey through Higher Education.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has responded to the Syrian crisis in Turkey too. It seeks to address immediate humanitarian need (and also create benefits for the longer-term) by encouraging decent work opportunities for refugees and host communities. The ILO also aims to protect vulnerable groups of Syrian refugees such as children and women.

Possible Solutions

An initiative of the Foreign Trade Association (FTA), the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) is a supply chain management system that supports companies to apply best practice globally. In August 2016, BSCI’s Guidance Document on Syrian Refugees Working in Turkey summarized the key issues for social audits. Its recommendations included the development of internal policies, the enhancement of audit procedures and the actions needed to address any issues identified.

Other schemes looking to drive sustainable solutions to this issue include the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), a UK tripartite organization that helps its members to trade ethically and make a positive difference to workers' lives. The ETI’s program in Turkey assesses different approaches and works with brands to find sustainable solutions.

Sedex is reinforcing guidance on auditing practices for Sedex Members’ Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) to ensure that the exploitation of migrant workers is being fully investigated and reported so that it can be acted on. Initiative Clause Sociale (ICS) is also addressing the risk of the exploitation of unregistered Syrian refugees in textile supply chains by communicating about the issue with its members and auditors.

How SGS Can Help

Although SGS does not have any official confirmation or figures, some on-site visits to audited factories and other workplaces continue to uncover the employment of Syrian workers, who form 90% of the migrant workers encountered.

Due to the complexity of the situation in Turkey, companies should consider innovations such as unannounced or short-notice audit visits to gain more accurate information. SGS has developed specialist documents in Arabic and Sorani for use during on-site interviews with Syrian workers, to help verify (or counter) management claims on topics such as wages and conditions.

For further information, please contact:

Seda Bayer
Manager, Supply chain Assessment & Solutions
SGS Turkey

Pascale Oster

Manager, Supply chain Assessment & Solutions
SGS France



About SGS

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 90,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 2,000 offices and laboratories around the world.