Pre-departure cultural orientation

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Evaluation of the Overseas Orientation Initiatives - Canada

As per the requirements under the Financial Administration Act, an evaluation of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) initiative was required in fiscal year 2011/12. COA is one of three in-person pre-departure orientation initiatives funded by the department and CIC is in the process of establishing an overseas orientation strategy to frame immigrants’ orientation needs and its programming priorities regarding pre-departure services. Therefore, the evaluation was expanded to include all three of CIC’s pre-departure orientation initiatives.

COA was first introduced in 1998 and provides pre-departure orientation to assist individuals who have been accepted for immigration to Canada in preparing for their move to Canada and to facilitate their integration into Canadian society. COA is currently delivered on behalf of CIC by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), under a contribution agreement. The management of the contribution agreement is the responsibility of the Integration Program Management Branch (IPMB), Operations Sector, while program and policy support is provided by Integration and Refugees Affairs Branches, Strategic and Program Policy (SPP). The objectives of COA are to:

  • provide pre-departure orientation to Canada-bound refugees and immigrants;
  • enhance their knowledge about Canada prior to arrival;
  • determine participants’ perceptions of Canada and, as necessary, dispel rumours, misconceptions, and unrealistic expectations;
  • have participants reflect on specific issues that relate to their settlement and integration to Canada;
  • inform participants of their rights and freedoms, as well as their responsibilities and obligations as permanent residents and future citizens of Canada;
  • make participants aware of difficulties they may encounter during their first few months in Canada; and
  • help participants gain a sense of control over their new lives so that they arrive in Canada self-confident and aware of what to expect and what is expected from them.

COA sessions are offered to all categories of immigrants who have been selected for permanent resident status; however, priority is given to resettled refugees. Over a six-year period, COA provided pre-departure orientation to over 82,000 individuals (Table 1-1), with the largest proportion of clients served being FSWs (35.8%).

Promising practices in pre-departure orientation

IOM provides pre‐departure cultural orientation training courses for refugees accepted for resettlement. Over the past 20 years, IOM has conducted courses for over 350,000 refugees at more than 60 locations.

Cultural orientation prepares refugees by providing practical information on country of destination, and assists refugees in setting realistic goals and developing the skills and attitudes needed to succeed in their new environment. IOM works closely with governments to identify the key priority messages and values that are critical for refugees’ successful resettlement. Predeparture orientation is designed to assist refugees to develop realistic expectations and to become selfsufficient more quickly. Courses by IOM’s multilingual, multi‐ethnic trainers help refugees anticipate integration challenges and facilitate their transition into the receiving society. Topics addressed in the orientation include housing, health, money management, role of settlement service providers, education, cultural adaptation, rights and responsibilities, and others. Upon request, IOM conducts needs assessments and produces cultural profiles of new refugee populations designed to help service providers better plan for their arrival.

Facilitating integration through cultural orientation

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitates refugee resettlement to the Netherlands at the request of the Dutch government. Through its worldwide network in over 132 countries, IOM is well-placed to provide a range of pre-departure services as well as make arrangements for safe travel to the Netherlands.

One important service related to successful resettlement is the cultural orientation training refugees receive prior to their arrival in country of final destination. In IOM’s view, this training contributes to refugees’ successful resettlement by addressing a wide range of issues related to facilitating the integration process.

IOM underlines the importance of cultural orientation training as part of a well-managed resettlement process. The training contributes by reducing refugees’ concerns and overall anxiety while at the same time increasing their chances of successful integration. The host society gains through a decreased need to support the newcomers, while fostering an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect among refugees and the community at large.

Through the experiences and personal stories of trainers and refugees in this booklet, IOM hopes to make a positive contribution to European Resettlement programs by promoting humane and orderly migration that benefits migrants and society alike.

Reception and integration of resettled refugees in Gävleborg - Landa project brochure

Resettled refugees who come to Sweden often have little knowledge of their new home, which puts great demands on the municipal reception.

Through Project Landa, we were given an opportunity to develop this reception. The County Administrative Board of Gävleborg has been working in this countywide project for nearly two years. The project has been financed with funds from the European Refugee Fund. The purpose of the project was to develop the reception and informational efforts for the newly arrived resettled refugees that were to settle in the county.


Landa project - pre-arrival information and reception of resettled refugees - video

Sweden is the European country receiving the highest number of resettled refugees annually, with an annual resettlement quota of 1,900 persons.  Resettled refugees who come to Sweden often have little knowledge of their new home, which puts great demands on the municipalities receiving the them.

Through Project Landa, the County Administrative Board of Gävleborg had the opportunity to develop pre-arrival information and reception for resettled refugees.  Running for two years and financed by the European Refugee Fund, the project ensured that those involved in receiving resettled refugees in Swedish municipalities were involved in all phases of the resettlement process for refugees resettled to Sweden.  The following film will explain more about the Landa Project and how reception and integration of resettled refugees in Gävleborg is organised.