Ikea is sending thousands of flat pack shelters around the world as refugees struggle with subzero temperatures and bad weather on their way to Europe.
Aid agencies say that on the Greek island of Lesbos, the living conditions of the asylum seekers who arrive every day are being dramatically improved.
The distinctive IKEA structures are appearing in its two refugee camps, as well as the various transit points and along the coastline where overloaded boats are arriving from nearby Turkey. So far 520 kits have been sent to the island as part of the Better Shelter programme directed by IKEA and the United Nations refugee agency .
These huts allow the refugees to rest, eat, and change into dry clothes. At transit camps the structures are being used as first aid centres and clinics. In the refugee centers at Moria and Kara Tepe, they shelter entire families in ‘streets’.
UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said that these shelters were especially important now that winter was coming and temperatures fell at night. He insisted that it was “absolutely essential” for the refugees to have a roof over their heads.
Volunteers from the Green Helmets, a German group, are preparing the shelters for winter, using raised wooden floorboards to keep out rain and dampness.
The Better Shelter scheme was started earlier this year by Ikea and the UNHCR, so that refugees could be assured of safety and dignity. Aid agencies set up the first of 10,000 units last summer, and more are in the production stages.
The shelters, which are delivered in cardboard boxes, can be assembled in a few hours with the help of a manual. No tools are necessary. They can shelter five people and have windows, a locking door, and solar panel power for LED lights and phone chargers. Each one costs around £773 and can last up to three years.
The shelters have been sent to several countries including Greece, Iraq, Ethiopia, Macedonia and Nepal.
At the height of the refugee crisis, people were sleeping in tents or on the bare ground at Lesbos as they waited to be registered so they could continue to western Europe. The backlog has cleared and Mr Cheshirkov confirmed that all refugees, mainly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, will be housed in the shelters.