Jordan hosts an estimated 1.3m Syrian refugees ©Xinhua News Agency/PA Images
Jordan hosts an estimated 1.3m Syrian refugees ©Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Brands sourcing from Jordan must do more for refugees

9 May 2018

Apparel brands sourcing from Jordan are not doing enough to integrate Syrian refugees into their supply chains.

A report by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), said brands were taking little targeted action to change systematic problems faced by refugees and migrant workers in the country.

It added that monitoring and compliance was limited to first tier suppliers, and none of the brands surveyed reported partnering with local groups as part of their risk assessments or due diligence.

Many major apparel brands source from Jordan, and clothing exports to the US have surged as a result of a free trade deal agreed in 2000.

Danielle McMullan, senior labour researcher at BHRRC, said brands needed to “take this more seriously”.

“Work in garment factories provides migrants and refugees a valuable lifeline, but it should not be accompanied by the unacceptable risks we are seeing,” she said.

“Brands sourcing from Jordan have a responsibility to make sure this exploitation does not happen which means addressing the underlying causes, like the way workers are recruited which so often leaves them vulnerable to abuse.”

BHRRC invited 21 brands, primarily from the US, that source from Jordan to complete a survey answering how they are combating migrant worker abuse and integrating protection of Syrian refugees into their supply chains, of which just six responded.

The report said the low response rate “could indicate that many brands may simply not be prioritising the serious exploitation of the workers making their clothes in Jordan”, and noted the companies that did respond tended to already have a better track record on supply chain transparency than those that did not respond.

It said some brands, including Gap, Puma and New Balance, did have specific policies to safeguard migrants.

Gap Inc was the only brand that indicated it was looking to proactively support programmes to upskill and integrate Syrian refugees in Jordan into its supply chain, and other brands need to be more prepared for the challenges they face integrating refugees.

Jordan, which as a population of 9.5m, currently hosts 2.1m Palestinians and an estimated 1.3m Syrian refugees, as well as a significant number of migrants from South and South East Asia, according to BHRC.

The country’s garment sector is worth $1.65bn and represents 19% of its exports – 95% of which go to the US. The sector has grown rapidly as a result of a 2000 free trade deal that gave goods from certain qualifying industrial zones in Jordan duty and quota-free access to US markets. Garment factories in Jordan employ an estimated 65,000 workers.

The precarious legal status of migrant workers in Jordan leaves them open to exploitation. Workers employed by subcontractors in particular are at risk of being charged employment fees, having documents confiscated, suffering poor working conditions and threatened with deportation.

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