Preparing Refugees for Norway
Syrian children gather around image of Norway during a cultural orientation class in Istanbul, organized by IOM.
Photo: IOM/Shiva Adhikari
IOM Norway, through the Norwegian Cultural Orientation Programme (NORCO), organises trainings for selected target groups of refugees on the practicalities of life in Norway. The first cultural orientation session of the year was conducted in Istanbul from 15th to 26th of January, which brought together Syrian refugees from different parts of Turkey who all share one common characteristic; accepted for resettlement in Norway.
The primary objective of the programme is to promote a smoother transition and integration of refugees into the Norwegian society by preparing them for the initial adjustment period after their arrival in Norway. This is done through helping them develop a realistic visualization of life in Norway, an understanding of the receiving municipalities’ expectation of them, minimizing culture shock and enhancing their ability to be self-sufficient sooner.
The programme was developed under the request of the Norwegian Government, funded by the Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) and implemented by IOM Norway with close partnership with IMDi and UDI, as well as IOM offices in transit countries.
The Norwegian authorities annually decide the target groups and the number of quota refugees to be accepted for resettlement in Norway. Since the first cultural orientation session in March 2003, approximately 13,000 quota refugees have participated in the programme including, among others, Burmese, Bhutanese, Eritreans and Syrians. In 2017, 1,982 Syrians based in Lebanon and Turkey received pre-departure cultural orientation.
Cultural orientation classes are given within a period of two to three days for participants who are between 8 to 15 years old, and a period of five days for participants who are 16 years old and above. The class is learner-centered, involves active participation and encourages participants to ask questions.
Participants are not simply told about life in Norway, but are given the opportunity to experience it through role-plays, case studies, problem-solving activities, games, debates, and other activities that require their full participation. Video clips and presentation slides are also used in classes to highlight certain topics. Moreover, student handbooks are given to participants for additional reference.
In addition to providing participants with general information about Norway such as its population, geography and climate, participants are also provided with practical information to start their life in Norway. A key component is information about the Introduction Programme, a program that provides refugees with a Norwegian language course and an introduction of the Norwegian way of life and society. It is a right and an obligation for all newly arrived refugees between the age of 18 and 55 years old, and is compulsory in order for them to be able to apply for Norwegian citizenship. The goal of this programme is to improve their opportunity for further education, in the employment market and society in general, and also to strengthen their financial independence.
Furthermore, participants are also provided with information about education, employment, budgeting, gender roles, healthcare, housing as well as the culture in Norway. Taking the topic of culture for example, participants are provided with information about the Norwegian culture that is complemented with classroom activities to encourage their participation and maximize the learning experience.
Additionally, the programme acts as a safe haven where participants are able to air out fears and uncertainties. The training also helps them build new friendships that unlike the many things they have been forced to leave behind, will join them to Norway. This can be especially valuable for those who neither have relatives nor acquaintances in Norway.
Cultural orientation classes are taught by a cross-cultural facilitator, who generally has a cultural and linguistic background similar to that of the refugee group and has lived in Norway. Cross-cultural facilitators have a critical role as they act as a role model for refugees. This is because he or she has successfully integrated in Norway, learned the language, and has also managed to professionally establish themselves in Norway.
IOM regularly obtains feedback from both resettled refugees and their communities to improve the method of teaching and the cultural orientation curriculum. Community consultations among resettled refugees in Norway as well as staff training and development activities for the Cultural Orientation project staff are done in a regular basis to ensure the high quality of the service and support. IOM Norway will continue to provide the Norwegian Cultural Orientation programme for the next four years.
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