As Jordan’s garment sector grows, activists push for better migrant workers’ rights

Jordanian labour officials have begun inspecting migrant housing, but improvements have not necessarily followed

An employee rests inside the room she shares with nine other migrant workers (Alisa Reznick/MEE)

An employee rests inside the room she shares with nine other migrant workers (Alisa Reznick/MEE)

IRBID, Jordan – Layers of drying laundry swing on clotheslines strung atop dormitories inside Jordan’s Al Hassan Industrial Estate. Down below, young women curled up on benches smile into their phone screens, talking to friends and family thousands of miles away.

It’s Friday morning, the weekly day off for most migrant garment workers inside the complex, and the living quarters of Classic Fashion Apparel Industry Ltd Co are buzzing with activity. Music spills from open bedrooms as residents upend mattresses and sweep under bunk beds.

Sonia Aktar, a shy 20-year-old from Bangladesh, sits cross-legged on her tidy bed. She’s in the middle of a three-year contract with Classic, the largest garment manufacturer in Jordan. It’s her first time being outside her country and away from her family home.

“I have four sisters back in Bangladesh. I came here to send funds back to them,” she said. “My family is poor, so I had to find a way to make more money.”

Aktar is one of almost 50,000 migrant garment employees in Jordan, according to figures from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), coming from across South and Southeast Asia to produce items for US brands such as Nike, Under Armour and Target, in factories scattered across the kingdom.


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