Primark shopper finds 'jail SOS note'

Published Wednesday, 25 June 2014
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A note alleging to be an SOS message from a prisoner in China making clothes for export under slave labour conditions is said to have been found in a pair of trousers bought in a Primark store in Belfast.

A shopper from Co Fermanagh contacted Amnesty International when she discovered the handwritten note earlier this week.

The message is headed "SOS! SOS! SOS!" and has since been translated from its original form.

According to Amnesty, it reads: "We are prisoners in the Xiang Nan Prison of the Hubei Province in China. Our job inside the prison is to produce fashion clothes for export.

"We work 15 hours per day and the food we eat wouldn't even be given to dogs or pigs. We work as hard as oxen in the field.

"We call on the international community to condemn the Chinese government for the violation of our human rights!"

The trousers were purchased by Karen Wisínska in June 2011, but had remained unworn and in a cupboard until now.

I am only sorry that I did not discover the note when I first purchased the clothing - then I could have brought this scandal to light much earlier.

Karen Wisínska, shopper

Ms Wisínska told Amnesty that she had been shocked by the discovery and even more shocked by the translation of the message.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, said it was a "horrific" story.

"It's very difficult to know whether it's genuine, but the fear has to be that this is just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

"There is no excuse for any UK company to be profiting from forced labour in Chinese prisons. They should be monitoring their supply chains and terminating contracts when they discover abuses.

"The Government should now amend its Modern Day Slavery Bill to require companies to keep their supply chains free of such abuses."

On Monday, Primark launched an investigation after a similar situation was brought to light following a purchase of a dress at a store in Wales.

A message was stitched into label alleging "sweatshop conditions" had been used to make the item.

In a statement, the company said it takes the allegations "very seriously".

While concerns have previously been raised about the conditions for those making the low-cost garments for the store, Primark's Code of Code - as outlined on its website - states "good working conditions" must be in place and that workers must be "treated decently and paid a fair wage".

© UTV News
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5 Comments
eileen in fermanagh wrote (125 days ago):
Primark say the item was not sold in northern Ireland since 2009, yet the customer says she bought them in 2011 , something doesn't add up, and if the item was not suitable, by wait two years to sort it out.
James Chu in Hong Kong wrote (126 days ago):
Totally looks like a hoax to me.
indy in antrim wrote (127 days ago):
seriously are people that naive, that they don't know this is going on, it takes a note for the press to cover this story, lost for words
Belfast in Belfast wrote (127 days ago):
After visiting Cambodia earlier this year i was disgusted at the conditions the garment factory workers have to deal with, working 60+ hours a week and they get paid enough to live well below the poverty line so people here can buy cheap clothes. Its dusgusting! Perhaps brands should increase the workers wages and reduce their profits and increase the cost customers pay and have some respect for humanity! People here fight over religion and race. People there fight for the right to be treated fairly and paid a decent wage for workong hard!
Belfast in Belfast wrote (127 days ago):
Sure anyone whos been in china knows that factorys take in work and then pass it out to smaller factorys to do for them its done day and daily out there with all names and brands. Maybe if shops started to buy local or in the eu we would have beter clothing less counterfit and get longer wear out of the stuff
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