Preparing Refugees for a New Life in Europe

Preparing Refugees for a New Life in Europe
Pre-departure cultural orientation plays a crucial role to ensure that refugees resettled in Europe can quickly rebuild their lives in a new community. Photo: A family of Syrian refugees resettled in Northern Ireland can at last enjoy safety. © UNHCR/Paul Wu

As the number of refugees resettled in Europe grows, the need to ensure that they can quickly rebuild their lives in a new community becomes crucial. Pre-departure cultural orientation is a helpful tool for facilitating early integration and promoting refugees’ autonomy.

The objectives and methodologies for providing cultural orientation — both pre-departure and post-arrival — as well as best practices, innovative methodologies and strategic messages were the subject of a 3-4 May 2018 multi-stakeholder seminar in Istanbul, Turkey.

Some 30 representatives from NGOs, governments and municipal authorities also discussed the range and contributions of stakeholders involved in delivering cultural orientation, such as the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) Resettlement Support Center for Turkey and the Middle East.

For additional information on the webinar, see the following press release:

SHARE Seminar on Pre-Departure Processing and Cultural Orientation: Preparing for the Integration of Resettled Refugees in Europe.

Istanbul, 3-4 May 2018 – The International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) held, in partnership with the Centralized Agency for Reception (COA) in the Netherlands, an on-site visit and seminar on pre-departure processing and cultural orientation.

The seminar, held at the ICMC’s Resettlement Support Center in Istanbul, Turkey, was organized within the frame of the SHARE Integration project, which aims to build a network of (small-size) cities, towns and local actors committed to offering protection and welcome for resettled refugees in Europe.

A host of experts involved in resettlement were invited to present in Istanbul on approaches and best practices for cultural orientation as preparation for refugee resettlement. Presenters included government actors from Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Turkey, as well as civil society organizations: Consorzio Communitas (Italy), Jesuit Refugee Service Portugal, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) and ICMC. In total, 30 representatives from NGOs, governments, municipal authorities and the European Asylum Support Office attended the seminar.

Resettlement in Europe has increased steadily over the past years. Currently, the European Union is implementing a new scheme for at least 50.000 persons in need of international protection to be resettled by 31 October 2019, which will give a further boost to EU resettlement efforts. As of today, countries have pledged 27.000 places for the resettlement of Syrians from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and around 7.000 for the resettlement from countries along the Central Mediterranean route, particularly from Niger.

While resettlement in Europe is growing, the ultimate success will depend on how quickly refugees will be able to rebuild their new lives in a new community. Pre-departure cultural orientation can be a helpful tool for facilitating early integration and promoting refugees’ independence. Participants discussed key objectives as well as methodologies for providing cultural orientation both pre-departure and post-arrival, and the range of stakeholders that can be involved in its delivery.

Innovative methodologies such as programs targeting children and youth, videos made by national and municipal reception actors, video conferencing with cultural mediators, as well as online mentorship and live-chat tools were discussed at the seminar.

Participants also debated strategic messaging and opportunities for dialogue with refugees who are resettled to smaller municipalities, rural areas and to countries that encounter secondary migration.

Finally, a study visit to observe the cultural orientation training delivered by COA to prepare refugees for their lives in the Netherlands was organized within the frame of the EU FRANK project, providing participants the opportunity to see cultural orientation in practice.

For more information on the SHARE project, contact ICMC Europe Program Manager, Magdalena Boehm at


ICMC provides assistance and protection to vulnerable people on the move and advocates for sustainable solutions for refugees and migrants.