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Refugees in Zurich

Custom shelters replace flawed IKEA models

A first group of asylum seekers has moved into an exhibition hall near Zurich where they are occupying small wooden houses specially built for them after models purchased from IKEA were deemed unsafe. 

Individuals from Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Iraq are set to move into the exhibit hall in the coming weeks, with the first thirty having arrived on Monday. All of them had previously been housed in cantonal asylum centres. 

Originally, officials had planned to house them in mobile shelters made by the furniture company IKEA, for which canton Zurich paid some CHF90,000 ($89,000). However, in December, those were found to have fire safety flaws and the canton abandoned plans to use them. 

According to the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, employees of a St Gallen-based building company worked extra hours over the holidays to complete the replacement shelters, which are made of plywood and contain bunk beds, a table and chairs and cupboards. 

An inside view of the custom-built shelters (swissinfo.ch)

An inside view of the custom-built shelters


Architect Hans Stutz told the Tages-Anzeiger that the plywood shelters “keep a fire at bay for at least 10 or 15 minutes”. The replacement structures cost the canton an additional CHF235,600, according to the newspaper. 

The city of Zurich is hoping to be reimbursed for the unused IKEA shelters. However, negotiations to that effect have not yet begun, according to Thomas Kunz, director of the refugee aid organisation AOZ, who says that “we are working hard to find a solution”. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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