Saturday 19th August marks World Humanitarian Day (WHD), a day designed to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. The world is currently facing the worst refugee crisis in recorded history. A long-term solution is desperately needed, with The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimating that in 2016 only 189,300 of the 22.5 million people seeking refuge were resettled. This World Humanitarian Day, I am urging businesses to step up their support for the millions of displaced refugees around the world to give them the opportunity for a better life, and together take action.
Donating money to refugee agencies such as the UNHCR is often an effective way for businesses to support the crisis. The UNHCR provides vital support to refugees across the world, with money received contributing to providing shelter, access to education, livelihood opportunities and renewable energies. As part of the IKEA Foundation’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, the UNHCR received funds to construct a solar plant in Jordan’s Azraq refugee camp, which has brought renewable power to a population that had previously lived for two and a half years with only sporadic access to electricity. Since 2010, the IKEA Foundation has supported UNHCR in 12 countries and committed almost €149.5 million to the UNHCR.
Hiring refugees also contributes to the diversity of a workforce, which should be viewed as a positive step for any business. We know that recognising our co-workers’ differences contributes to creativity and supports our growth.
Partnering with registered refugee charities such as Breaking Barriers is another way for companies to find a sustainable solution for those who have been displaced and now face barriers to employment. Breaking Barriers works in the UK to integrate refugees through employment, ideally in careers that offer the chance to utilise people’s skills, experience and qualifications from their countries of origin. For example, the Bank of America sponsored an initial 12-month pilot with the charity to support 18 to 24-year old refugees into further education and employment - through a programme called BB Futures. By working together they have already supported 18 refugees, 14 of which are in permanent employment or further education. Ashurst, a law firm, is another organisation supporting refugees by sponsoring a new employment delivery centre near Old Street (London) which will be opening later this year. The centre will offer employment support, English classes and a crèche.
Mooud, a refugee from Iran, was studying for a masters in 2011 when he had to leave his home country abruptly. He is now working full-time at our Tottenham store as a kitchen designer, which has helped him to live a fulfilled, self-sufficient and different way of life. Mouud believes that working at IKEA has “given [him] an opportunity to uncover [his] ability” and has allowed him to “build on [his] self-confidence again.” In 2018, we will be rolling out this scheme to other stores across the country.