Ikea flat-pack shelters set to house refugees

Ikea flat-pack shelters will be delivered to refugee camps. Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Flat-pack shelters produced by Swedish furniture giant Ikea are set to provide temporary homes to thousands of refugees in camps around the world.

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The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has purchased 10,000 of the Ikea Foundation's temporary flat-pack shelters, designed to replace canvas and hoop tents currently used in most refugee camps.

The 'Better Shelter' units were first developed and tested as prototypes in 2013 by the Ikea Foundation, Ikea's humanitarian arm, and have a lifespan of three years.

“The refugee housing unit is an exciting new development in humanitarian shelter and represents a much needed addition to the palette of sheltering options mobilized to assist those in need. Its deployment will ensure dramatic improvement to the lives of many people affected by crises,” UNHCR chief of shelter and settlement Shaun Scales said.

The 17.5 square metre shelters come in Ikea style flat-pack cardboard boxes and assembling a unit is said to take around four hours. UNHCR is set to start delivering shelters to thousands of families in refugee camps this summer.

“This is just the beginning. We will continue to develop the Better Shelter and also provide other solutions to benefit the many displaced people. Innovation is our strongest driving force,” Better Shelter's head of business development Johan Karlsson said in a statement.

The ongoing war in Syria has forced nearly four million people to leave their homes, according to the UN. Many have fled across the border into neighbouring countries and some have made it to Europe. Sweden currently takes in more refugees than any other European country per capita.

A Better Shelter prototype being assembled in Ethiopia. Photo: R Cox/Better Shelter

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