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Cablegate: Turkey: Child Labor Report Ruffles Got

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAK #1343/01 2541403
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111403Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0767
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS ANKARA 001343

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

SECSTATE FOR DRL/ILCSR
LABOR FOR ILAB/OFCT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PREL PGOV TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: CHILD LABOR REPORT RUFFLES GOT

REF: STATE 92560

THIS MESSAGE IS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE HANDLE
ACCORDINGLY. TRANSMISSION VIA THE INTERNET IS PROHIBITED.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Post delivered the points in reftel to
appropriate officials in the Ministry of Labor and Social
Security (MOLSS) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The
GOT's response ranged from moderately negative to baffled.
Even though the USDOL report on Worst Forms of Child Labor
(WFCL) and the Trafficking Victims Protection and
Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) Report highlight Turkey's
positive efforts to eradicate child labor, officials here see
both reports as "punishing with the same hands that applaud,"
and see the TVPRA goods list as potentially harmful to our
bilateral relationship. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On September 8 Labor Attache (LABATT) demarched
Huseyin Avni Aksoy, Head of the Department of Multilateral
Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), to
discuss the release of both reports. While recognizing the
country profile for Turkey in the WFCL report each year
explains Turkey's efforts to identify and eradicate child
labor, he said the effect of publishing the TVPRA list on the
same day was to "punish with the same hands that applaud."
(NOTE: Even though the TVPRA goods list focuses on both
forced and child labor, significant forced labor violations
have not been documented in Turkey so the discussion focused
only on child labor violations. END NOTE.)

3. (SBU) Aksoy said he had served in other countries where he
witnessed much greater problems in child labor than those in
Turkey, but was surprised that Turkey was going to appear
alongside those same countries on the TVPRA list. In Turkey,
he said, the problem is relatively small and getting smaller
due to intense government efforts, which have been recognized
by the International Labor Organization (ILO). Aksoy said
that if a "proper differentiation" could be made between the
widely varying situations in different countries, his
government might be less opposed to the list. However, he
concluded, this list does nothing to solve the problem of
child labor, it only applies disproportionate shame.

4. (SBU) On September 9, LABATT discussed the reports with
Nafiz Karakulah, the newly appointed head of a newly formed
department in the MOLSS that will encompass three offices on
child labor, women's issues and the labor of the
"disadvantaged" (a mandate yet to be clearly defined, though
it will probably include convicts and the disabled).
Karakulah assumed his position two days before the meeting.
A veteran of the MOLSS for over 20 years, he admitted he had
negligible past experience working on child labor issues.
Initially friendly and calm, he gave a prepared presentation
on the GOT's programs on child labor. However, after LABATT
raised the release of the WFCL and TVPRA reports, Karakulah
acted surprised and then became irascible, accusing the USG
of using rumors, media reports and speculative opinions to
exaggerate the problem of child labor in Turkey.

5. (SBU) When it was explained that the statistics for the
WFCL came from his own ministry's Office of Inspections, he
said that anyone in the MOLSS who gave statistics to the USG
on the TVPRA goods that were listed was not authorized to do
so. When LABATT clarified that the TVPRA report used
additional sources like an ILO report from 2003 to support
its claims, Karakulah said any reports about the child labor
issue that were not recently published by the GOT's State
Institute for Statistics (TUIK) could not be considered
representative data, and that since the problem was
statistically so small, anecdotal reports should not be
considered significant. (NOTE: The last TUIK report on labor
statistics that discussed the child labor issue was published
in 2006. END NOTE.) Karakulah threatened to require the
Embassy to obtain any future labor statistics through
diplomatic note requests via the MFA, and said he would ask
his Minister to call the Ambassador to protest if the report
was published. When LABATT explained that the report had
been open for public comment in Washington in 2008 and was
going to be published by the Department of Labor the
following day, he said there would be serious negative
consequences for the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship as a
result.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: While the release of the reports was not
picked up by the Turkish media on September 10 or 11, any
future coverage is unlikely to improve Post's working
relationship with Karakulah's office. After his meeting with
Labor Attache, Karakulah phoned the head of the MOLSS Office
of Inspections and accused Post's source, a veteran
inspector, of "speaking to foreigners without authorization."
Post's source was later harangued by her supervisor,
although she defended her actions because the information she
released to Post is public. This is likely to complicate our
future data collection.

JEFFREY

"Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at http://www.intelink.s
gov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turkey"

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