From Homs to Flatanger

The story of a Syrian family and their journey to Norway.

“The thought of going somewhere new and far while knowing nothing was difficult to comprehend, and it certainly was not an easy decision to make. We were accepted to go to Norway, and although with a little bit of fear, we decided to go. The decision to go was mostly for our children, not for ourselves. But the information we received from the Cultural Orientation class has helped us and changed everything, we are becoming excited of this upcoming journey. We feel like we know a lot more about Norway. We are going to Norway not only for the children, but for all of us,” said Amani Abdel Moeti Kaakeh (27) and Fadi Wasfi Diab (38) while looking at each other for comfort in Tripoli, Northern Lebanon.

Fadi fled the war in Homs, Syria, because of the fear and insecurity of being forced to serve in the Syrian army. He resided in Lebanon for six months, but then had to move back to Syria because of a pain in his leg that required treatment. Fadi later got married with Amani, left Syria and came to Lebanon together in 2012 for the same reason he left Syria in the first place.

In Lebanon, Fadi and Amani lived in a small village near Tripoli with their two children. They missed their lives back in Syria every single day. Fadi works as a butcher for a living, while Amani stays at home and take care of the children. Amani is afraid due to her irregular status, and spends all day at home. Her dream is to continue what she started in Syria, studying in the field of business and commerce, whereas Fadi would like to leave his unstable job as a butcher and work on his goals to continue his former career as a professional athlete.

Fadi and Amani only wanted the best for their children, but they are struggling in Lebanon. Their children are not registered and have no identification documents. Fadi and Amani could not afford sending their children to school, and it is also not easy to find a place in a school for a refugee child in Tripoli. Fadi and Amani were worried, concerned of their children’s future.

Fadi and Amani decided to apply for refugee status and applied for third country resettlement through UNHCR. The Norwegian authorities coordinated with UNHCR and interviewed the family in Tripoli, and accepted them as part of the quota refugees bound for Norway. They were happy and relieved, yet they still feel hesitant. It was mostly because of the weather, they were worried that they would not be able to cope with it. They also did not feel confident and capable in learning the language.

IOM Norway provides pre-departure orientation for Norway-bound quota refugees selected by the Norwegian authorities. At the time, IOM Norway provided pre-departure cultural orientation classes in Tripoli for Norway bound Syrian refugees, in which Fadi and Amani participated.

For them, participating in the Norwegian cultural orientation programme changed their perspectives about Norway. Little by little, they started to learn more and throughout the cultural orientation period they became more certain and confident of their decision to travel to Norway. They learned that Norway has many things to offer, including education for their children. Moreover, they also learned how to dress warmly during the winter, thus not having to suffer from the cold the way they thought they would.

Through the cultural orientation classes their perspective on the challenges they will face in Norway have shifted from the cold weather into something more critical for their well-being; learning the Norwegian language, finding a job and being part of the Norwegian society. By the end of the cultural orientation period they became willing to try and do their best and became very keen on travelling to Norway, for their security and for a better future for the whole family.

They left Lebanon in May 2017 and have now lived in Flatanger, Norway for one year. In a phone call with IOM Norway recently, Amani expressed that she is happy living in Norway, surrounded by such nice people. She is currently attending the introduction programme, a programme that provides migrants with a Norwegian language course and an introduction on the Norwegian way of life and society. She now speaks Norwegian fluently and also a little bit of English, while Fadi is still struggling with the pain in his leg, which has hindered him from learning the Norwegian language. However, above all, their children are now attending school.

Even though Flatanger was an unknown destination, with the help of the cultural orientation programme, the unknown became known and after a very long journey, their family is now safe, happy and optimistic about the future.

To learn more about IOM's work, go to:

Migrant training and integration

Preparing Refugees for Norway article

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Office: Skippergata 33, 2nd floor, 0154 Oslo, Norway

Post: Pb 8927 Youngstorget, 0028 Oslo, Norway

Opening hours: Monday - Friday, 10:00-15:00

Telephone: (+47) 23 10 53 20  |  Fax: (+47) 23 10 53 23

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