Study: IKEA suppliers accused of using Belarusian prison labor

IKEA store in Estonia.
IKEA store in Estonia. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

French media outlet Disclose has published a study to suggest several suppliers of Swedish furniture giant IKEA used products made in Belarusian prisons run by officials of the Lukashenko regime.

The investigation found that half of IKEA's major Belarusian suppliers had links to penal colonies run by the authorities of Alexander Lukashenko, Politico reports.

IKEA supplier Mogotex apparently purchased textiles from the IK-2 juvenile detention center in 2019. The colony's manager was sanctioned by the EU for "inhumane treatment of political prisoners" 2006-2014. Prisoners working at IK-2 got paid just a few rubles per month, while the average salary in Belarus is €600.

"The Lukashenko regime forces prisoners to work for free, including political prisoners," Belarusian opposition activist Franak Viačorka said.

"Many were sentenced to forced labor after attending protests where they criticized Lukashenko or voiced support for Ukraine. We urge all Western companies to stop cooperating with the regime and whichever institutions with ties to the Belarusian administration," Viačorka added.

IKEA's cooperation with Belarusian companies officially started in 1999 when Lukashenko was already in power. The country eventually became IKEA's second largest timber supplier after Poland.

An Ikea spokesperson said the company takes "the reports regarding Belarus very seriously and that we never accept human rights violations in our supply chain."

IKEA stopped all new business development in Belarus due to human rights violations in June 2021 and terminated contracts with their Belarusian suppliers a year later.

In 2012, the company admitted that it bought products made by political prisoners in the former East Germany in the 1970s and 1980s.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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