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From Congo, via Uganda, to Norway

6 Dec 2018

This year, Norway has welcomed almost 1,000 quota refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. IOM went down to Uganda to help them prepare for a life far up north.


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Imagine growing up in a place without seasons. Without ever having to put on a winter jacket or worry about your ears getting cold. Now imagine moving from this place to one of the coldest countries on the planet. You will be safe in your new country, but everything you knew, everything you held dear, will be new and unfamiliar, maybe even scary. This is the reality for many people who have come to Norway as refugees over the years, including this year.


Uganda is one of the world’s top refugee hosting countries, with close to 1.4 million refugees and asylum seekers. Around 235,000 of these people are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), out of which 1,000 have been chosen by the Norwegian government upon the request of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to resettle in Norway this year. Before travelling to Norway, IOM Norway gives them a pre-departure course, on behalf of and in collaboration with the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi). The course goes through Norwegian history, geography and culture, and is designed to make the refugees better prepared for a life in Norway, and to minimise the culture shock that surely will arise from moving to a very foreign place.


Living in a refugee camp in rural Uganda, or in an urban setting in a bustling city like the capital Kampala, is a long way from how one will live in Norway. When you move to Norway as a refugee, you can be resettled anywhere in the country. Often this entails moving to a small, quiet village in the far north, a long way from a city. There is no denying the beauty, serenity and opportunities for adventures in the outdoors, but if you arrive from 30°C and sunny skies, you are bound to get a bit of a shock when you land. However, the point of resettlement in the international refugee system is not to move people to where the weather is the most favourable, but to a place where people can live safely and where they have a chance to grow and prosper.

In Norway one needs thick clothes with many layers in winter.  


When asked what the refugees know about Norway before commencing the week of the cultural orientation training, many highlighted that it is a “peaceful country”, that “respect refugees and treat them well”, where it is po