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Syrian refugees can soon sell their handicrafts at IKEA

IKEA will sell rugs and textile made by Syrian refugees in 2019 [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 February, 2017

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Swedish home furnishing giant IKEA will sell a new line of rugs and textile made by Syrian refugees in 2019 to provide jobs for people displaced by Syria's civil war.

Swedish home furnishing giant IKEA is planning to sell a new line of rugs and textile made by Syrian refugees in 2019, offering job opportunities to people displaced by the Syrian civil war.

The 200 refugees - mostly women - benefiting from the initiative are currently living in Jordan, CNN reported.

"The situation in Syria is a major tragedy of our time, and Jordan has taken a great responsibility in hosting Syrian refugees," said Jesper Brodin, a managing director at IKEA.

"We decided to look into how IKEA can contribute," he added.

The Swedish company said it was working with local organisations that focus on womens' issues, such as ensuring the hours were flexible for women who were caring for family members.

The rugs and textiles, which will be part of a limited edition run, will be sold locally and in other Middle Eastern markets that have free trade agreements with Jordan.

According to the United Nations, only 37,000 work permits have been issued to for more than 650,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, prompting many of them to work illegally.

IKEA's initiative reportedly predates US President Donald Trump's temporary entry ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria.

Trump has also capped the total number of refugees that can be admitted to the US at 50,000 in the 2017 fiscal year, and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely.

"We support the fundamental rights of all people, and do not accept any form of discrimination," IKEA said in a statement on Tuesday.

In a letter to employees published online on Monday, the company's country manager for the US, Lars Petersson, said the company was committed to supporting co-workers and their families who are affected by the travel ban by providing free legal advice and mental health counseling.

"Any proposal that would discriminate against a certain group of our customers or co-workers, or limit our ability to attract and retain diverse talent is ... troubling," he said.

"Our IKEA values clearly tell us that leadership is taking action and standing up for what we believe in. That is why we are committed to continuing to stand for the dignity and rights of everyone."

This is not the first time IKEA has responded to the refugee crisis.

Last year, the company received the "design of the year" award in the prestigious Beazley competition for its flat-pack refugee shelter, designed in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Thousands of these shelters, which were intended to last for around three years, were sent to different humanitarian crisis points around the world saving refugees from freezing temperatures in Europe last year.

In November, IKEA recreated a Syrian apartment display in one of its Norway branches, offering customers an experience of life inside a family home at war.

The campaign raised around $24 million for the Red Cross in Syria.

The company has also donated $33.3 million for lighting and renewable energy projects in refugee camps in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

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