Compliments of Todays Zaman
İzmir police on Tuesday raided an underground manufacturer in the Konak district and seized a total of 1,263 fake life jackets that were produced with low-quality materials. Of the four workers at the workshop, two were discovered to be underage Syrians.
Employing Syrians has become commonplace in Turkey in the recent past as the growing population of refugees in the country provide a low-cost labor force for businesses. Even though the government previously declared an intention to issue work permits for Syrians, they are now mostly employed illegally and paid less than Turkish citizens for identical positions.
The life jackets seized in the raid included counterfeits of renowned brands padded with insulating materials, suitcase fabric and low-quality sponges used to make the life jackets look thick and safe.
The raid came on the same day that Turkish authorities found the bodies of 34 migrants, at least three of whom were children, washed up on the coast of İzmir and Balıkesir provinces after they had apparently drowned while trying to cross to the Greek island of Lesbos.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) puts the number of migrants who have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2015 at 3,771. Experts argue that fake life jackets selling at low prices are the primary reason for the high number of deaths at sea.
Life jackets conforming to standards should carry a descriptive label on them showing size, model, buoyancy level, a security certificate number and a list of proper usage areas written in four languages. They are produced with special water repellent materials that enable people to float for at least 12 hours even if the wearer is unconscious. Fake life jackets such as those confiscated in the İzmir seizure often absorb water and drag the user down.
Turkish media has previously reported that even street vendors in the provinces of İzmir and İstanbul have been selling cheap and poor-quality life jackets targeted at Syrians who have fled their civil war-torn country and who plan to make the perilous sea crossing to Europe in the hope of attaining better living standards.
While high-quality life jackets cost at least TL 75, depending on the size and model, shoe stores and grocers in İstanbul’s Aksaray district ask around TL 35 for a sub-standard jacket.