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Jan 17 2019

Fire in workplace in Turkish capital kills five Syrian workers

Five Syrian workers died as a result of a fire in a furniture workshop in the Turkish capital of Ankara, Duvar news web site reported.

Five other workers in the four-storey building were rescued by the fire service, Duvar said, citing the Interior Ministry. The Ministry of Family and Social Policies said on Thursday that it had appointed inspectors to investigate the fire.

The left-wing Sol news site reported that 48 Syrian workers lost their lives in workplace accidents last year, according to available records.

Sol talked to tradesmen who run similar workshops to the one that burnt down in the Siteler district of Ankara. Unregistered Syrian refugees work there for an average monthly wage of 1,000 lira ($186), Sol quoted tradesmen as saying.

“If I employ a Turkish worker, including social insurance and daily subsistence, he costs me 3,000 lira ($559). But a Syrian costs only 1,000 lira. We barely make a living ourselves and we employ Syrians,” the owner of one workshop told Sol. 

Sol said most of the workshops in the area did not have emergency stairways and used stoves for heating. 

Ninety-two percent of young Syrian refugees aged 18 to 29 said they were facing discrimination in the Turkish job market, according to a study published in September 2018 by Bahçeşehir University Centre for Economic and Social Research (Betam).

Young Syrian workers said that compared to Turkish workers they received lower wages, worked longer hours, were not paid for overtime, and had shorter breaks.  

Betam’s deputy director Gökçe Uysal told Sol in September that only 20,000 workers out of 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey had work permits. 

Uysal said employers were responsible of applying for work permits for Syrians, but they usually avoided it for several reasons. The employers have to pay an annual amount of 300 lira ($59) lira per worker as social security contribution when they employ Syrians. 

There is also a 10 percent limit for the number of Syrian workers firms can employ. To pass this threshold, the employers have to apply to Turkey’s Employment Agency and prove that no Turkish workers are available for the job.