Syrian refugee children have been making clothes for Marks & Spencer and Asos, it has been claimed.

BBC’s Panorama team has investigated factories in Turkey, where it alleged that refugees were found to be manufacturing garments for a quartet of retailers, including Mango and Zara.

According to the BBC, the youngest worker was 15 years old and put in 12-hour shifts ironing clothes before they were shipped to the UK.

Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer reported in BBC’s Panorama investigation

BBC’s Panorama has claimed Syrian refugees have been making clothes for Marks & Spencer, Asos, Zara and Mango.

All four retailers said they monitored their supply chains and do not tolerate the exploitation of children or refugees.

Marks & Spencer said its own inspections have not found a single Syrian refugee working in its supply chain in Turkey.

But Panorama discovered seven Syrians working in one of the factories sub-contracted by an M&S supplier. 

A spokeswoman for Marks & Spencer said the programme’s findings were “unacceptable” and that they would address the issue urgently.

She added: “Ethical trading is fundamental to M&S.

“All of our suppliers are contractually required to comply with our Global Sourcing Principles, which cover what we expect and require of them and their treatment of workers.

“We do not tolerate such breaches of these principles and we will do all we can to ensure that this does not happen again.”

“All four retailers said they monitored their supply chains and do not tolerate the exploitation of children or refugees”

Uncovering more evidence

In Turkey’s capital Istanbul, Panorama discovered an Asos sample in another workshop, while a number of Syrian children were working at the site.

The etailer admitted that its clothes were made in the factory, but insisted it was not an approved factory.

Since the Panorama investigation, Asos has found three Syrian children and 11 Syrian adults at work in the factory.

It said the children will be financially supported so they can return to school.

The online fashion business said it had “implemented these remediation programmes, despite the fact that this factory has nothing to do with Asos.”

Panorama claimed that Syrian refugees working 12-hour days were distressing jeans for Zara and Mango.

However, it is claimed they were not wearing basic face masks when spraying hazardous chemicals to bleach the denim.

Zara’s parent company Inditex said it already found significant non-compliance following an audit in June, and had given the factory until December to improve standards.

Mango added that the factory was working as a sub-contractor without its knowledge.

An investigation by the business found “good conditions” apart from “some personal safety measures.”