08/02/2021

The harsh reality of illegal textile workshops in Morocco

2 min
Emergency services transport an injured person

Morocco is a country that is geographically close and with which Catalonia has had important economic relations for a long time. At the same time, Catalonia hosts an important Moroccan immigrant community. Even so, we do not know many things about its harsh socio-economic reality. This Monday, floods in Tangier caused the death of at least 28 workers (19 women and 9 men) in an illegal textile workshop. The women, who worked underground, drowned, while the men were electrocuted when the water came into contact with the machinery. As already happened with the collapse of an illegal factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2013, where more than 1,000 workers died, the accident has exposed the harsh reality of illegal textile workshops, where people work in unhealthy conditions for low wages, as if we were still in the England portrayed by Dickens.

This case, however, should serve to raise awareness in Morocco itself, where there are already voices calling for a thorough investigation and those responsible to be called to account, but also to make us aware here of what is happening in North Africa, and of the conditions that cause thousands of young people every year to decide to leave their countries of origin to seek a better future in Europe. One of the things we will have to find out is whether this workshop was working irregularly for big Western textile brands, as was the case in Dhaka. It is possible that it was not the case of this particular workshop, which seems to have been making very low cost clothes to sell to the local population, but different NGOs such as Attawassoul have been denouncing for years, in the framework of the campaign Clean Clothes, that there are many illegal production centres in Tangier that do work for well-known brands.

A study by this NGO denounces that women work 55 hours a week for a salary of €250 a month. And they do so in conditions where, for example, they are often only allowed to go to the toilet once a day. Therefore, people in Europe must also become aware of the importance of putting pressure on textile companies, be they larger or smaller, so that, should they decide to produce in the Third World, they do so in accordance with Western occupational safety standards. Because behind the low prices often lies a much cruder reality: that of labour exploitation, which in cases like yesterday's endangers the lives of the workers.

In this context, the authorities should be much more proactive in demanding that big brands respect labour rights everywhere, and consumers should value local production, or at least that which is made without exploitation. We hope that in the coming days there will be more details about the accident in Tangier and all this will serve to begin to dismantle these circuits of informal economy and to incorporate them into legality. It won't be easy and it won't happen overnight, but we don't need women drowning in a basement to start acting.

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