Together with British journalist Nils Adler I visited sweatshops producing counterfeit shoes that employ Syrian children aged between 10-14; these children are often forced to accept lower rates than their local colleagues. The children work 10-hour shifts in sweltering conditions, the rooms often full of toxic fumes released from the gluing process. Many of these children – who can earn up to €300 a month – are the breadwinners in their family, often earning more than their parents.
To gain a full understanding of how these children came to be in this situation we visited the children’s homes, meeting their parents and siblings – often living in abandoned or derelict apartments and shops. For many, their younger siblings – who could be as young as five – would also be working from home. Through documenting the stories of the children’s families and their daily life in areas such as Tarlabaşı and Bağcılar we were able to show how the lack of protection offered in Turkey has left many of these families ensnared between the life they escaped from in Syria and a life protected by international conventions in Europe. Unfortunately, it is young adolescents and children who have to take on the responsibility of looking after their families. The maturity they exude, both in appearance and in their behaviour – often translating on behalf of their parents from Arabic/Kurdish to Turkish – further compounds the fact that they are missing out on a childhood and education that would provide them with the opportunities to live a normal adult life.
This reportage has been published in The Daily Telegraph and El Pais.