After the Report on "Syrian Refugees", ICI Holds a Meeting with 16 NGOs

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As a response to the BBC story titled “Child refugees in Turkey making clothes for UK shops”, representatives from sixteen organizations and NGOs as well as textile, apparel, leather and shoes industries came together in an assessment meeting. After the meeting, ICI (Istanbul Chamber of Industry) criticized baseless reports that damage Turkey’s reputation unfairly.

ICI made the following public statement:

"It is common knowledge that our industrialists act in full compliance with EU legislation in their manufacturing operations, and have these operations audited regularly by their European customers. Our country has been an exemplary host to three million Syrian friends for more than five years. Given these circumstances, what we expect from our European friends is not this kind of fictional news stories, but a more dedicated support for improving the living conditions of the Syrian refugees in Turkey.”  

After the meeting hosted by the ICI Vice Chairman İrfan Özhamaratlı in the ICI headquarters, ICI made the following public statement:

“We would like to stress that our industries and companies are very troubled by the BBC’s baseless report and the severe allegations included therein.

Contrary to those ungrounded accusations, Turkish textile and ready-towear industry offers more favorable working conditions and better ethical values than their rivals do. Nevertheless, as Turkish textile and ready wear industrialists, we do not settle with these conditions, and we are committed to continuous improvement for achieving humane working conditions with an unwavering focus on ethical production. Obviously, as industrialists who have embraced this approach, we never condone child labor in any shape or form, whether it involves Syrian children or not. We have always acted responsibly in this matter, and will continue to do so.


Nurettin Çetinkaya, Mustafa Balkuv, Şeref Fayat, İrfan Özhamaratlı, Ali Sami Aydın, Hüseyin Çetin

Turkish industrialists and exporters are engaged in a global competition that is fiercer and more challenging than ever. Obviously, under the current conditions, such a story can and will deliver a devastating impact on suppliers, and more importantly, on consumers. Moreover, it is common knowledge that our industrialists, whose main export destination has been Europe for years now, act in full compliance with EU legislation in their manufacturing operations, and have these operations audited regularly by their European customers. In fact, our textile industry is Turkey’s runner up in export volume after automotive, a fact that proves our total focus on quality and ethics in every aspect of our operations.

Those behind these unfair allegations ignore that Turkey has been carrying out an important humanitarian mission for the last three years, as the country has welcomed three million Syrian friends so far. While many countries have unfortunately turned their back on this crisis, our country has been an exemplary host to those in need for more than five years, acting in accordance with the principles of hospitality and charity. Given these circumstances, we must stress that, what we expect from our European friends is not this kind of fictional news stories, but a more dedicated support for improving the living conditions of the Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The story covered by the BBC has reminded the important, delicate and urgent need of Syrian refugees, who have become a part of ourlives, to adapt to our society.  This is a fact, one that must be realized by all actors of the society, from politicians to bureaucrats, and from NGOs such as us to the academy.

As such, Syrian refugees must adapt to our society as soon as possible. A potential aspect of this adaptation is facilitating work permit processes and streamlining relevant procedures.

To evaluate the situation in this context, unlicensed producers, the ranks of which do include certain Syrian manufacturers as well, present a significant unfair disadvantage for industrialists such as us who operate within the formal economy. We believe that these businesses must be subject to strict inspections. We, as industrialists, are committed to continue the fight against unlicensed producers and unregistered businesses.

In conclusion, we believe it to be a grave injustice to implicate our industry and harm our country’s reputation with these baseless allegations fueled by prejudices and hidden agendas. We invite those responsible for the aforementioned reports to act in accordance with the ethics of journalism.

The following organizations participated in the ICI’s meeting:

The Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) Clothing and Apparel Industry Assembly, Istanbul Apparel and Clothing Exporters’ Association, Istanbul Textile and Raw Materials Exporters Association, Footwear Industry Suppliers Association, Bayrampaşa Textile Manufacturers’ and Business Association, Socks Manufacturers’ Association, Garment Accessory Manufacturers’ Association, Laleli Industry and Business Association, Knitting Industry Manufacturers’ Association, Unitary Underwear Industrialists Association, Footwear Industrialists Association of Turkey, Turkish Leather Garments Manufacturers’ Association, Turkish Home Textile Industrialists and Businessmen Association, Turkey Clothing Manufacturers’ Association, Textile Finishing Industrialists Association of Turkey, Turkey Knitwear Industrialists Association.