Refugee ‘slave-labour’ and racist Hate Crime in Turkey

Fundamental rights such as annual leave, weekends off, overtime, severance pay and bonuses are almost entirely ignored where Syrians are concerned. The average wage of a Syrian worker is half that of their Turkish counterpart. Wages are often paid late or never paid at all.

text by Ekrem Onaran illustrations added

Hatred, discrimination and physical attacks against minorities in Turkey are encouraged with impunity by the racist nationalist regime, with defenseless refugees suffering most.

From ‘guest’ to enemy: Racism and hate crimes towards Syrian refugees in Turkey…

On the one hand, many local people blame Syrians for the country’s high unemployment rate, assuming that they are taking available jobs at a lower wage. On the other hand, these same people declare that Syrians do not work and only receive allowances from taxpayer (EU) money…Unfortunately, many Syrians have been exposed to physical and psychological attacks, and this hate speech and crime have continued into January 2021” (…..see..IMPUNITY .”the hate environment and racism are ruining the future of Turkey”…..)


ISTANBUL — In a textile factory in Istanbul, workers toil over sewing machines. But look closely, because the workers are children. Filming with a hidden camera, we found scores of factories using child labor in Turkey. Most, perhaps all, of the children are from Syria….CBS video screenshot

Many of the roughly 3.9 million refugees in Turkey, most of them Syrian, are illegally exploited in labour-intensive jobs without any employment rights.

Refugees are employed in almost every sector, especially in areas such as car repair, quarrying, lime kilns, mining, agricultural work and producing building materials.

Turkish electricity distributor cuts power to some residents of Syrian refugee camp in dead of winter… 26th January 2021

Some 3.5 million Syrians are registered as refugees in Turkey, according to the UN refugee agency. The rest are mainly from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

Small and medium-sized businesses prefer to employ refugees in labour-intensive jobs due to the low wage costs and the ability to hire and fire at will.

“They do not mind working too much. They work up to 8 or 9 pm. There are no demands like days off. ‘It’s enough to have a job’, they say. I employ three refugees at the cost of a single Turkish worker. But we both benefit. They make a living,” said the owner of a tyre company in Ankara who employs two Syrians and one Iraqi.


The working conditions of refugee women are much worse. According to a warning letter from the Ministry of Labour, Social Services and Family, unregistered women refugees are vulnerable to abuse, unsafe working conditions and are exposed to all forms of exploitation.

The letter said refugee women workers felt they could not make any official complaint when they faced molestation, sexual harassment and similar issues due to working illegally. They are forced to work before and after giving birth, contrary to employment laws, it said, and some employers seize the passports of refugee workers.

Refugee kids are now making high end fashion for next to nothing. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.“Some of Britain’s biggest high street shops have been selling clothes made by Syrian refugees, a documentary uncovered.

According to the Interior Ministry, 1.66 million Syrian refugees in Turkey are children under the age of 18. Many of them are also employed by textile companies, car repair workshops and in shops, restaurants and bakeries, receiving as little $2 to $4 a day. Many are subject to violence, as well as exploitation.

Orphans are especially vulnerable. Unprotected and orphan refugee children are regularly exposed to violence by employers. The violence against these children is normalised and assumed to be necessary by the employers.


Blackmail! EU and Turkey talk of resuming their refugee deal – 2021-03-30 The refugee deal between the two parties established that those asylum seekers who were found not to have the right to enter the EU will be returned to Turkey. In return, the EU would spend more than $7 billion of public funds to provide Turkey with the funds necessary to take care of the millions of Syrian refugees trapped in the country.//Turkey threatens yet again to ‘let loose’ its 3.5 million Syrian refugees on Europe, gaining billions in EU subsidies while using them as semi slave labour, mercenaries and strike breakers.. In reality 3.5 million is not so huge in a Turkish population of 80 million. In Afrin for example,before the Turkish invasion nearly half the population were internal refugees and something similar happened in parts of Lebanon.

The Family, Labour and Social Services Ministry recommends refugees facing problems working illegally to obtain a work permit, (but this is seen as rarely possible).

Turkey Renews Shelling Refugee Populations in North Syria ...

Turkey Renews Shelling Refugee Populations in North Syria

The most recent statistics from the Family, Labour and Social Services Ministry on the number of work permits issued to foreigners is from 2016. According to the data, there were only 13,290 Syrians working legally in Turkey.

Many of the ones that got away ended up trapped here: A woman holds a baby at Kara Tepe refugee camp, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece. /AP/Panagiotis Balaskas

The government’s labour minister told parliament in November last year that 15,022 work permits had been granted to Syrians from January 2016 to that date. The Refugees Association said the number of Syrians with work permits had reached only 20,970 by the end of 2017.

While a law to make it easier for Syrians to obtain work permits came into force in 2016, it is estimated that fewer than one in a 100 refugees are working legally in Turkey.

What happened to the Syrian refugees who got stuck in Turkey? Mar 17, 2021 Gaziantep, in southern Turkey, is home to about half a million Syrian refugees, many of whom had hoped to make it Europe by Bethan McKernan in Istanbul and Hussein Akoush in Gaziantep ..

But illegal or unregistered work is not confined to Syrians and other foreigners. According to government figures, 33.7 percent of 9.8 million workers in Turkey are unregistered and without insurance.

It is hard to expect employers, who force even Turkish citizens to work illegally, to apply different standards when it comes to refugees.

text by Ekrem Onaran illustrations added

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