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Primark Ups Factory Inspections to Curb Refugee Exploitation

The flood of refugees taking solace in Europe will soon mean a host of new labor rights issues for apparel companies to consider.

Primark, for one, said it has ramped up factory inspections in Turkey—the world’s largest host of refugees and the third largest supplier to Europe after China and Bangladesh—to make sure Syrian refugees who don’t have a legal right to work aren’t exploited in its factories.

Turkey has come under scrutiny for employing Syrian workers illegally, and a report released earlier this year by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRC) called out H&M, Next and Primark for their role in employing illegal workers—whether knowingly or not.

H&M said at the time that it had identified one case of a Syrian refugee child working in its supply chain and added, “In accordance with our policy on Syrian refugees in Turkey, we terminated this business relationship immediately.”

Primark has had its share of accusatory claims about questionable labor practices, and has been fairly quiet in response so far, but according to Ireland’s RTE News, the Irish retailer wants to make sure its supply chain is ethical and that consumers know the efforts being taken to make it so.

Paul Lister, head of Primark’s ethical trading team, said the retailer is double-checking its roughly 100 supplier factories in Turkey due to increasing concerns about ethical treatment of the 2.5 million Syrian refugees there.

With Europe’s refugee influx reaching what the world is calling “crisis” level, as more than 1 million people seeking asylum settled there in 2015 alone, and with the increasing appeals for transparency in the supply chain, Lister said now is the time for Primark to be more open about its policy to “crackdown” on worker exploitation, RTE reported.

“Rana Plaza was a wake-up call in communication and the need to talk about [the supply chain],” Lister told RTE.