The European Commission has called on the Bangladesh authorities to act immediately to ensure apparel factories comply with international labour standards following two fires that have killed more than 119 workers.

On Saturday (26 January) at least seven workers were killed and at least 50 others injured in a fire that raged through an unlicensed garment factory in Dhaka - just two months after 112 people lost their lives in another apparel factory fire in Bangladesh.

In a joint statement, HR/VP Catherine Ashton and EU trade commissioner Karel De Gucht  said: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the deaths of young workers from a fire this weekend in a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This tragedy is all the more shocking as it follows only two months after another textile factory fire in Bangladesh killed  more than a hundred people.

"The EU is Bangladesh's largest trade partner and Bangladesh benefits from preferential access to the EU market. The European Union is deeply concerned about the labour conditions, including health and safety provisions, established for workers in factories across the country."

They added that the EU is willing and ready to assist the Bangladeshi authorities in any way it can to meet international standards.

"At the same time, European and international companies need to do more to promote better health and safety standards in garment factories in Bangladesh, in line with internationally recognised guidelines on corporate social responsibility," they emphasised.