A French investigative journalism outlet has claimed IKEA suppliers in Belarus used forced prison labour, in an absolutely shocking new report. 

Disclose, the network behind the report, alleged that at least ten of IKEA’s suppliers in Belarus “had ties with penal colonies over the past ten years”. 

“These are forced labour camps that are particularly brutal, knowing for practising torture as well as food and health care deprivation,” it reported.

Textile company Mogotex is one of IKEA’s long-term partners, according to Disclose.

Mogotex has allegedly worked with four Belarusian “penal colonies” including the IK-15 labour camp and the IK-2 juvenile prison. Disclose reported Mogotex bought material from IK-2. 

A Lithuanian NGO said IK-2 inmates were paid just two to five roubles per month, the equivalent of €2 or AUD$3.10. 

“Our investigation shows that at least six of IKEA’s Belarusian partners worked with the juvenile prison between 2014 and 2019,” Disclose said. 

EU spokesperson for foreign affairs Peter Stano told POLITICO it was “aware” of the allegations. 

“We are aware of recent reports denouncing the alleged used of forced labor in Belarus by IKEA subcontractors,” Stano said. 

“If these reports are confirmed, such practices should stop immediately as they violate human rights.”

IKEA responded to Disclose’s investigation with a statement.

It said it “[does] not have direct partnerships with the companies in question”. 

“If we get factual information from the media, NGOs, colleagues or any other organisation about misconduct, we always look into the allegation and take the necessary steps to rectify it.”

Similarly, the company told CNN it took Disclose’s report “very seriously” and it “never accepts human rights violations”. 

IKEA also told CNN that in June 2021 it had stopped “all new business development due to the human rights challenges in Belarus and the unpredictable environment”.

“While present in Belarus we carried out regular audits in combination with the mapping of our supply chain to secure compliance with our requirements.”

Earlier this year, IKEA got rid of all its contracts in Belarus amidst the war in Ukraine. Belarus’ president Aleksandr Lukashenko is an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.  

IKEA has previously admitted that some of its suppliers used the labour of political prisoners in East Germany during the 1970s and 80s. IKEA Germany managing director Peter Betzel apologised in 2012 and said, “We wholeheartedly regret that this happened”.

Image: Getty Images / Jenny Evans / Stringer