Preparing for the Unknown: Designing Effective Predeparture Orientation for Resettling Refugees
Navigating a new city, learning a new language, and making sense of complex public-service bureaucracy can be challenging for anyone who moves to a new country. For resettled refugees, these challenges may be even greater; those who have lived in remote regions or refugee camps, or who have limited formal education, may need to adjust to common features of life in a high-income resettlement country, such as learning how to use a bankcard or a metro system. To help smooth this transition, many resettlement countries offer predeparture orientation, also called cultural orientation, for refugees selected for resettlement.
This MPI Europe report explores the varied forms these programs take, with their content, timing, and delivery shaped by the refugees’ situation and the resettlement country’s resources and priorities. The study draws on interviews with resettlement policymakers, program implementers, and reception and integration service providers, and its seven case-study countries—Austria, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and Romania—represent both longstanding and relatively new national resettlement programs.
Among the many approaches to predeparture orientation, the authors identify a set of features shared by effective programs. These include tailoring programming to ensure it is accessible and viewed as credible by refugees, creating continuity between predeparture and postarrival supports, and minimizing distractions by, for example, providing child care so all participants can fully engage with orientation activities.
The authors also offer a word of warning: resettlement programs are under intense pressure to demonstrate that refugees are integrating quickly into their new communities. Though it may be tempting to view predeparture orientation as a tool to speed the integration process, it is no replacement for postarrival reception and integration services. What is can offer, however, is a solid foundation upon which these services can build.
II. Understanding the Goals of Predeparture Orientation
III. Designing an Orientation Program
A. What Content Should the Orientation Cover?
B. How Long Should the Orientation Be?
C. At What Point in the Resettlement Process Should the Orientation Take Place?
D. Who Should Deliver the Orientation?
IV. Guiding Principles for Effective Orientation Programs
A. Deliver Orientation in a Credible and Accessible Manner
B. Create Continuity between Predeparture and Postarrival Services
C. Use the Predeparture Period to Prepare Resettlement Communities as well as Refugees
D. Minimize Environmental Stress
E. Incorporate Monitoring, Evaluation, and Continuous Learning into Program Design and Delivery
V. Conclusions and Recommendations