Readying refugees for their new homes before they set off can have benefits later, MPI Europe report finds
BRUSSELS – Tens of thousands of refugees are resettled around the world each year, a journey that can be both exciting and bewildering. What they learn before they set off is vitally important to preparing them for their new lives, according to a review of predeparture orientation programmes for refugees by Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Europe.
Preparing for the Unknown: Designing effective predeparture orientation for resettling refugees draws on interviews with officials and other experts involved in designing and implementing these schemes for countries in Europe, North America and Oceania.
The authors find that the duration, timing and set-up of predeparture schemes varies extensively according to logistical constraints in the countries from which refugees are resettled, and the resources and priorities of the destination countries. While the Netherlands provides training over the course of several weeks, other resettlement countries, such as Portugal, offer a shorter training of three days. New Zealand delivers its orientation almost entirely after refugees arrive.
Report authors Susan Fratzke and Lena Kainz stress that there are many successful models for these programmes, but suggest several broad principles that all should follow, including:
- Focus as much on developing the skills to cope with change and cultural difference and generating a positive attitude towards resettlement as on conveying specific information
- Tailor the content and training techniques to the needs of the audience and make sure sessions take place in a stress-free space
- Involve refugees who have already been through the process—either by Skype, pre-recorded video messages or hiring trainers who have themselves been resettled
- Use the predeparture period to prepare resettlement communities by informing them about refugees’ needs and experiences and teaching cross-cultural communication skills.
More than 50,000 refugees have passed through EU resettlement schemes since 2015, and the European Commission has asked Member States to pledge to admit more refugees via resettlement before October. As a result, officials are under greater pressure to provide evidence of successful integration.
However, the authors warn that policymakers need to be realistic about the limits of what predeparture orientation can do. ‘No orientation programme will be able to teach refugees everything they need to know about life in the resettlement country—or to completely change their cultural attitudes or behaviours—in the space of just a few days’, they write.
‘It can, however, help refugees begin to develop knowledge and skills to navigate their new communities and societies, and the confidence to overcome challenges and setbacks—a solid foundation upon which reception and integration services can build’.
Susan Fratzke said: ‘As European Member States look to scale up their resettlement programmes, this report examines the important role predeparture orientation plays in setting refugees up for success. The report also recommends several steps policymakers can take to build effective predeparture orientation schemes that will contribute to the overall success of their resettlement efforts'.
Lena Kainz said: ‘The weeks and months before refugees depart for their new homes are critical. Receiving countries can use this time to increase refugees’ sense of control and confidence in their decision to resettle—and even spark excitement about what awaits. This report not only highlights the broad design options for orientation programmes, but also offers specific insights on the information refugees need, and how to communicate it’.
About the authors:
Susan Fratzke is a Policy Analyst and Programme Coordinator with the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) International Programme. Her research areas include forced migration, asylum and resettlement policy.
Lena Kainz is an Associate Policy Assistant with MPI Europe, where she focuses on legal pathways to protection, global mobility governance and unaccompanied minors.
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MPI Europe provides authoritative research and practical policy design to governmental and non-governmental stakeholders who seek more effective management of immigration, immigrant integration and asylum systems, as well as better outcomes for newcomers, families of immigrant background and receiving communities throughout Europe. MPI Europe also provides a forum for the exchange of information on migration and immigrant integration practices within the European Union and Europe more generally. For more, visit www.mpieurope.org.