Child labour: The shadow behind your sparkling makeup

Photocredit: Flickr

Photocredit: Flickr

By Marisol Bernal Corredor

Indian authorities have announced that they will begin the process of legalization mica mines in Eastern India, after a series of investigations that revealed the deaths of children working in these illegal mines. 

Mica is a mineral found mainly in India which helps to brighten the tone of colour pigments, making it indispensable in achieving the shine that we see in makeup products and car paints today. This mineral is known for being environmentally friendly, but has a worrying estimated presence of around 20,000 child workers in mica mines in India. A boom for natural products has made the cosmetic industry grow its interest in this mineral, but it is important for one to question, at whose expense do we develop these organic and natural products?

Children responsible for collecting mica

An investigation by Thomson Reuters Foundation found children from five years old to be working in mines, and exposed to high risks with the possibility of death. Most mica mining in India is illegal, but it is the only income that some families see. Therefore, many must hide the truth of their reality for fear of being discovered and being left without any livelihood. Mica production has been developed by taking advantage of the poorest in areas where the only possible source of income is mining. As well as the adults, children are made vulnerable to the risks of illegal mining, with most working long days with low incomes, and permanent absences from school.

The transformational power of multinational corporations

The global supply chain in the cosmetic industry is complex -  most of the products originate from illegal mines, where they are sold to agents in town. They are then further vended to intermediaries near trading centres before being sold to exporters. The intermediaries do not check whether mica comes from legal or illegal mines, which then leads multinational companies to incorporate into their products, illegally obtained mica, as the Thomson Router Foundation showed.

Multinational corporations need to understand the importance of their role in society, especially in developing countries. Transparency in global supply chains will help to identify human rights abuses and in this way to find a system to tackle them. Multinational corporations can and should help the development of societies in which they reside.

With regard to India, the biggest responsibility should be taken by the Government, which has delayed the legalisation and regulation of mica mining. However, impact that businesses have in society should in no way be disregarded. Initiatives like ‘Child Friendly Villages’ lead by the Non-governmental Organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan -  which seeks to ensure that children go to school instead of working -  are important and will remain in time as long as multinational corporations are involved in them. Companies must put all their efforts into developing and enforcing a policy to increase transparency in their supply chain and try to address the problem, becoming part of the solution rather than drivers of the problem. 

Time for legalisation

The Indian government announced that it would begin the legalisation of mica mining, which will allow for regulation of the sector and create better conditions to help eradicate child labour within the sector. The authorities will first sell the dumps of scrap mica and then auction off old mica mines and other reserves for mining, DNA India has said.

The need to legalise mica mining has always pressing. It is its illegal nature the major cause which puts at risk the human rights of so many all over the world. However, activists and analysts warn that something more is needed than legalisation to end child labour. The Guardian explains that high poverty levels in mica mining areas mean that families cannot afford to send children to school, so they will be forced to continue working. Therefore it is necessary for adults to earn fair wages and to work in decent conditions, in order to improve their lives.

The Indian government’s efforts to legalise mica mining are significant, but it is now time for the government to also demonstrate its commitment and ability to enforce its laws by providing better working conditions. It should therefore implement appropriate regulation for the sector as well as effective protection for children. The state duty to protect human rights cannot be forgotten.

 

Marisol Bernal Corredor is an Intern at the Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group (www.bhre.org). She is a Colombian lawyer and was formerly diplomatic assistant to the Colombian Consulate in Aruba.  

New regulation regarding work permits for foreigners in Turkey

Photo credıt: pıxabay

Photo credıt: pıxabay

Turkey has the one of the biggest textile and garment industries around the world, due to the workforces’ attractive ability to manufacture products in short time periods. Almost every week the newest apparels are being displayed in shop windows, thus increasing already excessive consumer demand. In Turkey, businesses usually operate using subcontracts with small factories in order to fulfil retailer requests. Much of the time, these factories might be unregistered and even illegal sweatshops. Moreover, because suppliers sign series’ of subcontracts with these factories, retailers are often oblivious as to who the original producers are. With such lack of monitoring and inspection by the government and brands themselves, hazardous working conditions and the use of child labour in these factories is the harsh reality.

Over the last three years, the huge influx of Syrian refugees has had a dramatic effect on the sector.  After the 2011 Syrian Civil War, many people migrated to neighbouring countries, and where possible, to Europe. However, the subsequent deal between Turkey and the EU which banned Syrians from entering some of the European countries has found many stuck mainly in Greece and Turkey, separated from their families and alone.

What is the status of Syrian refugees?

Turkey is hosting nearly three million Syrians according to statistics of the Ministry of Interior. Almost half are children, making Turkey the largest hosting country in the world. After the massive influx in 2011, Turkish legislation was failing to acknowledge the basic rights of the Syrian migrants due to the country’s reservation on the 1951 Refugee Convention. This convention ensures rights and protection to the refugees in the country they settled. However, due to Turkey’s reservation, only EU citizens could possess refugee status, others will be accepted as foreigners which is a status ensures much more limited rights. As a result, Syrian people could not claim any rights or protection according to that convention. Since 2011, the government has enacted a series of new laws regarding their status and rights in time gradually, for example, last year Law No. 6735 International Labour Force has been adopted.

One of the first benefits accessed by Syrian migrants was the Governments introduction of the Law on International Protection and Foreigners which enables them to apply for work permits, and access education and health services, thus affording them some temporary protection.

However, there was a delay in the enactment of the Regulation on Work Permits of Foreigners under Temporary Protection, no. 29594, therefore, illegal work became a necessary means for survival. Although, welcomed by Turkish employers within the textile industry, the absence of regulatory authority placed Syrian migrants in a vulnerable state; forced to accept lower wages and longer hours of work. Even the employment of children was being favoured over employment of legal Turkish citizens.  

Issuing work permits to Syrians

Before applying for a work permit, Syrian migrants must first, under Regulation on Work Permits of Foreigners under Temporary Protection, no. 29594, apply for temporary protection. This process alone can take up to several months. Human Rights Watch have conducted interviews with Syrian refugees which a few people stated that all this time period of waiting can be reduced in exchange for money illegally. Furthermore, refugees can only apply for work permits after six months of settling into a certain area which they want to work. Also, many Syrians cannot speak Turkish and a shortage of translators in the government offices made practical the regulation requires that applications for work permits have to be completed by the applicant’s employer. Lastly, there is a quota which restricts the number of Syrians who can work, for example, out of every ten workers, only one can be of Syrian ethnicity. Statistics acquired by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security shows that over 4,000 work permits were granted to Syrians in 2015 just over 5,000 in the first half of 2016. Still considering the number of refugees living in the country, it falls short for meeting the need for sustaining decent and legal labour standards to Syrians in the country.     

New Law No. 6735 International Labour Force

The new law no. 6735 came into force in the second half of 2016 and rescinded the old one. This law covers more people as it is for foreigners in general. Syrian refugees under temporary protection are also bound by this law.   

This law is applicable to a number of different categories. These include those who wish to work in Turkey; currently work in Turkey; applicants for occupational retraining; interns, or temporary cross-border service providers in Turkey. The Ministry of Labour and Social Security will determine international workforce policies and work permits will be granted to applicants accordingly. Furthermore, for professional positions within sectors such as education and health, prior authorisation must be granted by the related ministry.

Another innovation regarding work permits, a new card called ‘’turquoise card’’ will be given to foreigners according to their education level, professional experience, their contribution to science and technology, its business effect to the country’s economy and employment rate. In this way, card holders can benefit from indefinite working rights after three years - also dependants such as spouses and children may possess residency permits.

However, similarly with the Law no. 29594, Syrian refugees under temporary protection can only apply after six months of applying for that status.

Also with the new law, during an inspection of competent authority, if a non-permit holder is found within the workplace, he or she will be subjected to a penalty and also reported to the Ministry of Interior to begin the deportation process. This punishment for refugees is an unfair and excessive reaction as it is the employers who leave them with no option but to work without the permits – instead they only face a fine.

Unfortunately, current regulations are insufficient in prevent human rights abuses because government officials are inconsistent in carrying out inspections to find corrupt employers, and sometimes do not even attempt to investigate. Firstly, if Syrians begin to receive minimum living wage in practice, among many other things, this would reduce issues like child labour. Sadly, it looks like there is a long way to ensure decent life standards to Syrian refugees.      

 

Ozge Okay- She is a LL.M candidate in the University of Greenwich on International and Commercial Law also doing an internship in Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group.