Dutch professionals & former resettled refugees cooperate to help with pre-departure orientation training
The project in brief
Central Organization for Reception of Refugees (COA), Netherlands
The ongoing practice incorporates lessons learnt and feedback from resettled refugees, municipalities and service providers.
A smooth transfer of resettled refugees from the country of first asylum to their new residence in the Netherlands, through:
- Pre-departure preparation of refugees selected for resettlement to the Netherlands for their arrival and stay in their new host community.
- Information exchange between the COA and receiving municipalities and organizations that provide assistance upon arrival.
Training materials, qualified trainers, train-the-trainer program, encrypted website where we share information with municipalities and service providers.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The program and training are tailor-made and interactive, targeted towards age, gender, diversity, culture gaps of the people concerned.
Screening & matching of employment opportunities also plays a key role in the PDO. In a screening & matching interview, we identify and match (potential) skills and work experience to match the demands of the labour market in certain regions of the Netherlands. This is taken into account by the COA when requesting certain municipalities for housing.
The length of the PDO depends on the process after arrival. When directly placed in a municipality, the PDO process consists of 3 sessions of 4 days. If the refugees are placed in the COA reception centres (where they can follow programs to prepare for their new life in The Netherlands), the length of the PDO is 2 days.
Examples of topics addressed are topography, rules and regulations in the Netherlands, expectations, work, how to contact neighbours, etc. The program is conducted by trainers of the Central Organization for Reception of Refugees (COA) in cooperation with former resettled refugees in the Netherlands. Municipalities and organisations that provide assistance upon arrival in the municipality are informed about the needs of refugees before they arrive in the Netherlands.
Challenges and how they were overcome
One of the main challenges was to design a tailor-made and interactive program. This challenge was overcome by incorporating the feedback from refugees themselves (evaluation and house visits), municipalities, service providers and COA trainers.
Results of the Good Practice
With this program of Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO), refugees who have been selected to be resettled to the Netherlands are prepared for their departure and arrival to the Netherlands.
Moving forward, COA is considering increasing the role of former resettled refugees. COA is also considering introducing the program to the caseload of family reunification.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The Pre Departure Orientation (PDO) informs refugees about their future in the Netherlands in a way that enables them to start with their integration process even before they depart. Approximately 98% of resettled refugees participate in this program. Since the beginning, the PDO has received many positive reviews and evaluations from both municipalities and resettled refugees. Due to ongoing evaluations, in particular with resettled refugees, the training strongly aligns with the specific needs of refugees (incl. employment), and is key to the trainers-to-trainers component.
Many former resettled refugees show strong interest to play an active role – as mentor/trainer – in the PDO. They consider it key to share firsthand experiences with the Dutch resettlement process, and more generally with migration to the Netherlands. During the PDO, they answer questions through Skype sessions. They also – as mentors – join the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) staff members when welcoming the resettled groups at Schiphol airport.
As Dutch municipalities receive resettled refugees on a voluntary basis, the process of information-sharing has positive benefits. It allows municipalities to match refugees to available housing (which is not the case for the mandatory placement of refugees out of asylum reception centres).
The PDO has been developed together with municipalities and service providers. These stakeholders are involved in an ongoing process of gathering feedback that the COA receives from them.
The Pre Departure Orientation program is a key best practice and is inspiring other countries to develop similar programs in a more interactive way. This ensures a smoother landing and easier start to the integration process for resettles refugees. The Dutch PDO has received many country officials for look-and-learn visits and is open for more of these visits in the future.
COVID-19 Update: Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, COA adapted the PDO to the current situation (e.g. remote training sessions) and actively shares this knowledge and experience with other resettlement countries (e.g. virtual meeting ATCR and bilateral with interested states/organisations upon their request). Together with UNHCR the Ministry and COA are exploring together in what way COA can contribute to the CRISP initiative.
Nicolien Rengers, Resettlement Manager, COA