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Integration of Syrian Refugees Into the Turkish Labor Market

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In December of 2016 the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) jointly hosted a roundtable meeting in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss the challenges and opportunities of integrating Syrian refugees into the Turkish labor market.  The roundtable attracted 120 participants from international brands sourcing from Turkey, local manufacturers, international and local trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), workers’ rights organizations, municipalities, and representatives from Turkish Ministry of Labor & Social Security and the Ministry of the Interior. 

These diverse stakeholders shared their perspectives on the legal and economic challenges that Syrian refugees navigate to find work in Turkey, in the months after passage of January 2016 legislation that gave Syrians under temporary protection status the right to apply for work permits.Roundtable participants identified several high-priority steps for multi-national brands sourcing from Turkey to take, to help more Syrian refugees find decent work in the garment industry.  Brands can:

  • Emphasize to suppliers that they support the legal employment of refugees, free from discrimination and in accordance with international labor standards – the same as local workers;
  • Introduce incentives for suppliers employing refugees, such as placing more orders with refugee-friendly suppliers;
  • Share success stories from suppliers employing refugees, as positive examples of how brands and suppliers can help improve conditions for Syrians in Turkey; and
  • Conduct government advocacy for legislative revisions that ease the burden on local suppliers and on refugees, such as a reduction in the cost of the work permit fee, or a revision to allow refugees to work outside their registered city of residency.

In addition to these steps for brands, roundtable participants identified a number of potential action steps recommended for other stakeholders — such as suppliers, civil society organizations, and the Turkish government.  This report summarizes the key messages delivered by the day’s speakers, and enumerates the potential actions steps identified during the group discussions that followed.

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