Since the start of the civil war, almost five million Syrians have fled their homes. Most have ended up in neighbouring countries – Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon – where they live among their host communities or in refugee camps.

 The Al Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan hosts around 80,000 Syrian refugees.
Image: Oxfam

According to a recent UNHCR study, Jordan hosts the second largest number of refugees relative to the size of its population with 89 refugees for every 1000 inhabitants.

There are well over half a million Syrians (655,000) registered with the United National High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country. The vast majority (80%) live in the local community and the remainder in refugee camps. Over three quarters (78%) are women and children. Nearly all (93%) live below the poverty line.

Syrian refugee children walk to school at the Al Za’atari refugee camp.
Image: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

IKEA has launched an initiative that it hopes will help – by providing jobs. Partnering with local non-profit organizations, the Swedish furniture giant has launched a line of textiles and rugs made by Syrian refugees, mostly women, working alongside Jordanians.

Image: IKEA

“After shelter and basic needs are taken care of, the next thing is really how to integrate people into society,” explained Jesper Brodin, IKEA's head of range and supply in an interview.

The TILLTALANDE range of cushion covers and rugs features designs by artisans and is now on sale in selected stores.

Around half of the artisans are refugees, and the rest are local Jordanians. Vaishali Misra, Business Leader for the IKEA Social Entrepreneur Initiative, says that this social mix is crucial, as it promotes integration and understanding.

“The most exciting thing about partnerships like this is the ripple effect they create,” says Vaishali. “Women get more respect in their communities, inspire others and gain confidence by learning skills, as well as earning an income to support their families.”

Access to employment is a major challenge for refugees around the world, who face exclusion from many labour markets: in the EU, 80% of refugees are unemployed.