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Desperate Working Conditions of Syrian Workers in Turkey

Şeref Güçlü

Melis Alphan, from Hurriyet daily, wrote in her column on Monday the tragedy of some Syrian workers in Turkey. Her commentary titled “How does a family with 400 TL (Turkish Liras) per month earn its living!” as follows:

Idris is a shoemaker at the age of 40, and is from Aleppo. He started his profession at 12 years old. When he escaped from the war in Syria 2,5 years ago and came to Istanbul, he wanted to do his profession first. He worked 15-16 hours a day for two weeks in a shoe manufacturer’s at Ikitelli, and he could not get his money. Later, he was a carpet cleaner, coal miner, and he had the hardest time when he couldn’t find a job.

Idris understands Turkish very little and can’t speak much. Because he did not know the language, he was always exploited in factories he worked, could not explain his sorrow, he could not defend his rights. Since he does not speak the language, he does not get out much from the quarter he lived, he wants his friends to be translator while he is at work or going to the hospital.

He always hided in his workplace that he has hernia waist. “If they knew, they would not let me work. Even if it hurted me, I quietened down because I had to bring bread to my four children.”

He is still working as a master in shoe manufacturing business for 4-5 months. Because he can’t afford while working for 800 TL per month, he pleaded his boss and got a raise of 200 TL. They are six people and trying to stay alive with 1000 TL per month. Now there is service bus, but when he was working in the coal miner, he had been walking to workplace and walking from workplace for not to give the minibus 2 TL every day. Since his boss knew this situation he sometimes tipped 10 TL, and sometimes left him his home in the evening. But as to work permit, insurance etc., stop there!

While a Turkish worker is insured with a wage of 1700-1800 TL, Idris has to be willing to be employed without insurance for a salary of 1000 TL just because he is a refugee even though he does the same job better.

Idris, telling his story in Workplace Killings Almanac 2016, tells about they are requested to produce 800 pairs of shoes a day here, while they have 30 pairs a day in Syria. “Where is 30 pairs a day, where is 800 pairs a day! It’s so hard, working fast is troublesome. When you work fast, it becomes dangerous. The work in Syria was starting at 08.30, and ending at 15.00. It is here from 08.00 am in the morning to 07.00 pm in the evening, 11 hours a day! You even leave the house at 07.30 in the morning, you are out of work at 19.30, and it’s 12 hours.”

There is no health screening at workplace. Idris has never been tested to see if he is affected by chemicals. When he wants to go to the hospital, the boss allows, but he also deducts from his daily wage. He does not go to check so that both his daily wage not be deducted and he does not make expense. There is inflammation in his ear; he can not buy his medicine when he does not have money; inflammation is not cured when he does not use the medicine regularly. “If I have one TL, and if you ask me that ‘do you buy medicine with it or give it to your children?’, I give to my children that one TL.” he says.

Labour inspectors occassionally come to the workplace at he works. At that time, the boss makes Idris and other foreign workers go out (from the workplace) to disguise.

Idris has no plans for the future. His only wish is not to be in need of anyone, to be able to look after his children, to be able to feed his family.

He does not know the sequel.

The situation of H.S., a textile worker from Aleppo, is no different. She has been trying to hold on together with her three children aged 6, 9 and 10 in Istanbul. She’s both working and looking after them. Children can not go to school because they could only get pre-registration document although they had applied for identity. She can not register her children with it to the school. She gets 850 TL monthly salary in the textile workplace she works for 11 hours a day. All workers in the workplace are Syrian and nobody have arrived to inspect the workplace for six months. 450 TL of her salary is spent on rent. With the remaining 400 TL, four people are trying to earn their living: “We are slogging away, but what can we do any other thing? We do not see any help or support as well from the state.”

It is stated in Workplace Killings Almanac 2016 that every city had hidden operating / illegal bureaus for Syrian workers to find jobs and that Syrians paid 100 TL to these bureaus so that they arrange a single job interview. The worker pays a salary also to the office if he succeeds in getting into the job.

Do not the authorities see goings-on?

Did we let these people in our borders to make them live hell, or to leave them helpless?

Will the authorities stay bystanders against the situation that these illegal bureaus transform the country into a human market?

Is it possible for a family of four to meet even their basic needs with 400 TL per month?



Translated by WHattı‘s Şeref Güçlü

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