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World-leading refugee employment programme has already helped more than 150 UK based refugees

Hege Saebjornsen, IKEA UK’s Country Sustainability Manager | IKEA

4 min read Partner content

For two years IKEA UK has been working with Breaking Barriers, a London-based charity to help refugees find meaningful employment.

The world is facing unprecedented levels of migration, with over 65 million people forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution and seeking safety and a better life for themselves and their families elsewhere. This includes more than 117,000 people who have been granted refugee status in the UK.

World Refugee Day (Thursday 20th June) is a time for the global community to come together to show support for the millions of people forced to flee. It is also an opportunity to deliver a call to action to find solutions that meet the needs of refugees around the world.

IKEA and Breaking Barriers’ world-leading refugee employment programme includes English classes, customer service training and assessment days, to improve the employment prospects for refugees living in the UK. Since the partnership began, more than 150 refugees have received support with 29 gaining jobs at IKEA across four London stores.

Describing the partnership, Hege Saebjornsen, IKEA UK’s Country Sustainability Manager said “This World Refugee Day, we are proud to celebrate our second year of supporting refugees living in the UK through our partnership with Breaking Barriers.

“Together, we have a real opportunity to help refugees find meaningful employment in the UK. We know that this is an extremely complex issue that’s different in every country and therefore we seek to make this work for each individual we support in the UK. We are excited about moving forward together and continue the important work of enabling access to sustainable livelihoods for refugees”

Matt Powell, the CEO of Breaking Barriers also said, “The private sector has a crucial role to play in the successful resettlement and integration of refugees. Employment opportunities are vital in enabling refugees to become financially independent and move on with their lives, as well as helping them to develop their skills and experiences for the benefit of the economy and our society.

Our partnership with IKEA is world-leading in its sustainable recruitment of refugees; clearly demonstrating an impact to both the refugees it supports, as well as IKEA as a business. With over 120,000 people in the UK granted refugee status over the last 5 years, we need more businesses like IKEA to lead the way in providing job opportunities for refugees.” 

Today over 90 IKEA stores in eight countries, including the UK, have started programmes that support refugees to gain work experience and develop new skills. Other IKEA markets run a variety of programmes in local communities to support migrants, refugees and other people in vulnerable situations.

Furthermore, in November 2016, IKEA Range and Supply also began a partnership with the Jordan River Foundation. Having initially created jobs for 47 Syrian women and 50 Jordanian women, the ambition is to scale this up to 400 artisans by 2020.

This is a long-term business initiative, through which IKEA believe we can support Jordan’s efforts to integrate refugees with locals in the labour market, through jobs and bringing communities and individuals together.


Samer arrived in the UK in September 2016 to study English. He’s a graphic designer, so initially worked in South Kensington for six months. After these six months he was put in contact with Breaking Barriers who helped him to find a job at IKEA Wembley

Samer started at IKEA in August 2018 and will soon be training in the returns and delivery service. His current job title is Customer Service Co-worker, overseeing cashiers and self-checkouts. The best thing about his current role is that he gets to improve his English and feels part of the local community.

In the next few years, Samer wants to gain more experience in his department and would love to be promoted to manager. As part of his role at IKEA, he has received lots of training and has a certificate in customer service. He feels that his fellow IKEA co-workers are like family, and there is no hierarchy between staff.

Samer said, “I came to the UK in 2016 and wanted to improve my English straight away and integrate well into the community. I feel so proud to work at IKEA and it’s a great brand to have on your CV. My co-workers are like my family and everyone is happy to help. Breaking Barriers made the process of getting the job as easy as possible and I’m so happy with the training I’ve had as part of my role. When my English is even better and I’ve had enough training, I hope to one day become a manager in the store.”

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