The Fair Labor Association (FLA), along with 20 apparel and footwear brands sourcing from Turkey, and four other workers' rights organizations, delivered a letter to the office of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on April 27, thanking the Turkish government for its extension of work permits to Syrian refugees as of January 2016, and calling for adjustments to the work permit program to improve conditions for Syrians who are seeking work in Turkey. The recommendations detailed in the letter are derived from ideas generated at a multi-stakeholder meeting in Istanbul, convened by the FLA and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in December 2016, and attended by 120 participants, including international brands sourcing from Turkey, local manufacturers, international and local trade unions, workers' rights organizations, and representatives from Turkish government. Meeting participants determined 20 specific opportunities for all stakeholders to improve the labor environment for Syrians under temporary protection. The letter to the president focuses on six specific areas where government action could help Syrians secure legal work with the same protections as local workers. These recommendations are to:
- Make work permits valid beyond the city of initial registration,
- Facilitate access to public and private banks to prevent off-the-books transactions,
- Ensure access to vocational and career development courses offered by the government,
- Waive the fee imposed on employers applying to legally employ refugees,
- Provide a vocational qualification evaluation for Syrian asylum seekers, and
- Exempt Syrian employees from fines imposed for being employed without a work permit.
The FLA and its affiliates and allies have been working to improve conditions for Syrians working in Turkey since 2014. Find information about previous efforts here, and find the most recent letter to the Turkish government -- in both English and Turkish -- linked below.