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IMMIGRATION

Ikea shelters rejected by Swiss due to fire risk

UPDATED: The Swiss city of Zurich has announced it will not use the 62 Ikea refugee shelters it has purchased to house asylum-seekers after a test showed they constituted a fire hazard.

Ikea shelters rejected by Swiss due to fire risk
Zurich had purchased the shelters with the aim of using them to house 250 people by early January. Photo: Ikea Foundation

Amid growing numbers of refugees and other migrants arriving in Switzerland, Zurich city councillor Raphael Golta on Friday morning unveiled a large hall filled with dozens of Ikea ready-to-assemble refugee shelters.

The city had purchased the shelters with the aim of using them to house 250 people by early January. But just a few hours later, the city was forced to announce that a fire safety test had revealed the shelters do not live up to Swiss fire protection requirements.

The test showed the temporary shelters “are easily combustible,” the city of Zurich said in a statement.

Golta voiced surprise at the verdict, but insisted the city had done its best under the circumstances.

“We have to host 40 percent more asylum seekers in the space of two months, so we had to move quickly to choose the best solution available,” he told the RTS public broadcaster.

The shelters, developed in cooperation between Swedish furniture giant Ikea and the UN refugee agency, have already reportedly been deployed by the thousand in refugee camps and in places like Greece that are facing a heavy influx of migrants.

The city of Zurich said it had relied on safety information from the UNHCR and a Swedish study.

But regional authorities had requested a new test after learning that a German report this week raised concerns about the accuracy of the Swedish study.

UNHCR spokeswoman Anja Klug told Swiss news agency ATS on Friday that the organisation was preparing to compare the Swiss and Swedish safety test results.

“If we discover problems, we will seek a solution,” she said, stressing though that the shelters are “emergency housing, temporary solutions, which we consider better than tents.”

Maerta Terne, a spokeswoman for the Better Shelter project, born out of a collaboration between the Ikea Foundation and the UN refugee agency, told AFP she could not comment on the Swiss safety test before seeing a “translation of the report on the results and the method used.”

However, she stressed the tests against European safety standards “on the walls and covering panels showed that the material held a security level superior to that required for temporary shelter.”

The Swiss canton of Aargau, which had been planning to house 300 asylum seekers in the Ikea shelters within a few months, also said Friday it was seeking alternatives following the Zurich test results.

Switzerland is expecting to receive some 39,000 asylum applicants this year, up from 23,800 in 2014.

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IMMIGRATION

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

Moving to another country is never easy, as it requires going through cultural changes and administrative formalities. It can be even more complicated when looking for a job.

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

According to new data released by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, the knowledge of the national language and the recognition of professional qualifications are the two most common obstacles experienced by foreign-born people in finding a ‘suitable’ job in countries of the European Union.

Overall, about a quarter of people born outside the EU who had experience in working or looking for work in the bloc reported some difficulties getting a ‘suitable’ job for level of education (without considering the field of expertise or previous experience).

The Eurostat analysis shows that the situation is better for EU citizens moving within the bloc. But there are major differences depending on countries and gender.

Life can be more difficult for women

In 2021, 13.2 percent of men and 20.3 percent of women born in another European Union country reported obstacles in getting a suitable job in the EU place of residence.

These proportions however increase to 20.9 percent for men and 27.3 percent for women born in a non-EU country with a high level of development (based on the United Nations’ Human Development Index) and 31.1 percent for men and 35.7 percent for women from non-EU countries with a low or medium level of development.

Finland (42.9 percent), Sweden (41.7 percent), Luxembourg (34.6 percent) and France (32.1 percent) are the countries with the highest shares of people born outside the EU reporting problems. Norway, which is not part of the bloc, has an even higher percentage, 45.2, and Switzerland 34.3 percent.

In contrast, Cyprus (11.2 percent), Malta (10.9 percent), Slovenia (10.2 percent), Latvia (10 percent) and Lithuania (6.7 percent) have the lowest proportion of people born outside the EU reporting difficulties.

Lack of language skills

The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle, and it is even more problematic for women.

This issue was reported by 4.2 percent of men born in another EU country, 5.3 percent of those born in a developed country outside the EU and 9.7 percent of those from a non-EU country with a middle or low level of development. The corresponding shares for women, however, were 5.6, 6.7 and 10.5 percent respectively.

The countries where language skills were more likely to be reported by non-EU citizens as an obstacle in getting a relevant job were Finland (22.8 percent), Luxembourg (14.7 percent) and Sweden (13.1 percent).

As regards other countries covered by The Local, the percentage of non-EU citizens citing the language as a problem was 12.4 percent in Austria, 10.2 percent in Denmark, 7.8 percent in France, 5.1 percent in Italy, 2.7 percent in Spain, 11.1 percent on Norway and 10.1 percent in Switzerland. Data is not available for Germany.

Portugal (77.4 percent), Croatia (68.8 percent), Hungary (58.8 percent) and Spain (58.4 percent) have the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving, while more than 70 percent of non-EU citizens residing in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Norway said they had participated in language courses after arrival.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal has the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving. (Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash)

Recognition of qualifications

Another hurdle on the way to a relevant job in EU countries is the lack of recognition of a formal qualification obtained abroad. This issue was reported by 2 percent of men and 3.8 percent of women born in another EU country. It was also mentioned by 3.3 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women born in a developed country outside the EU, and 4.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Eurostat says this reflects an “unofficial distrust” among employers of qualification obtained abroad and the “low official validation of foreign education”.

The lack of availability of a suitable job was another factor mentioned in the survey. In Croatia, Portugal and Hungary, this was the main obstacle to getting an adequate position.

This issue concerned 3.3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women born in another EU country, 4.2 percent of men and 5 percent of women born in a developed non-EU country It also worried 3.9 percent of men and 5.1 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Restricted right to work due to citizenship or residence permits, as well as plain discrimination on the grounds of origin were also cited as problems.

Discrimination was mostly reported by people born in a less developed non-EU country (3.1 percent for men and 3.3 percent for women) compared to people born in highly developed non-EU countries (1.9 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women).

Citizenship and residence permits issues are unusual for people from within the EU. For people from outside the EU, this is the only area where women seem to have fewer problems than men: 1.6 percent of women from developed non-EU countries reported this issue, against 2.1 percent of men, with the share increasing to 2.8 and 3.3 percent respectively for women and men from less developed non-EU states.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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