Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fake Life Savers: Turkish Police Raid Reveals the Extent of Exploitation of Syrian Refugees

by Nomad

The news out of Turkey about the refugees attempting to make the treacherous crossing into Europe just keeps getting worse. We can now add yet another danger: counterfeit lifejackets.

Police in Turkey's third largest city of Izmir raided an underground workshop this week,  seizing large numbers of unsafe lifejackets. The cut-rate jackets to be sold to refugees crossing the dangerous straits between Turkey and Greece.

According to the local reports  (linked below), the more than 1000 life jackets failed to meet recognized safety standards, and were filled with "packaging" rather than the proper materials needed to maintain proper bouyancy.
The workshop was found to be operating in the heart of the city. As if that were not bad enough, authorities also found that the workshop had employed unaged Syrian workers to help in the manufacture.

The news report noted that four people were found working in the workshop, including two young Syrian girls. Refugees are not permitted to work legally in the country where the unemployment rate among Turkish citizens is already high. 

July's figures showed unemployment at about 10 percent on average with youth unemployment much higher at 18.3 percent. In August, the labour minister said refugees will not be granted special work permits. This situation makes these desperate refugees prime targets for exploitation by the owners of such illegal workshops. The longer the conflict in Syria goes on, the more desperate the displaced refugees grow.

The Western coast of Turkey has, for last years, been the launching point for migrants and refugees from the Middle East, attempting to pass into Europe through the nearby Greek islands. While most come from Syria or Iraq, there are also numbers of   migrants from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. 
As we have reported for some time, the passage has proved to be deadly for countless victims, including large numbers of children.
Turkey, which is home to 2.2 million migrants from Syria’s civil war, has become a hub for migrants seeking to move to Europe, many of whom pay people smugglers thousands of dollars for the risky crossing.
The danger has been compounded by flimsy boats, rough seas and low temperatures. Authorities also claim conterfeit lifejackets are to blame for an increase in the drowning deaths.

How many have died is unclear but the estimate by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is around 4,000. Last year was, the organization says, the deadliest year on record for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe. It is feared that as refugees are faced with fewer choices, the situtation could become even worse in 2016. 

Only this week, in two separate incidents, Turkish authorities declared that the bodies of over 30 migrants had been found on its Aegean coast after their boats sank in bad weather while trying to cross to the Greek islands. Local residents in small towns were horrified by scenes of corpses, including infants and women, washing up on their shores. 
“We heard a boat sank and hit the rocks. I surmise these people died when they were trying to swim from the rocks. We came here to help as citizens,
Some of the fatalities were still wearing lifejackets which  had evidently only offered these victims a false sense of security.

LOCAL - Syrian children employed to produce fake life jackets in İzmir factory

Turkish police have seized over 1,200 unsafe life jackets destined for use by migrants trying to reach Greece by sea, in a raid on an underground workshop that used Syrian underage labor on Jan. 6. The authorities seized 1,263 life jackets that failed to correspond to safety standards in the raid on the workshop in the center of İzmir, Doğan News Agency said.