2.A Refugees: From Eligibility to Arrival
A.3 What information and resources are provided to refugees prior to their arrival in their resettlement country?
(i) How do refugees learn about what to expect in their country of resettlement?
How Canada Does It
It is important that refugees are able to learn about the differences, challenges, and opportunities they will encounter in their country of resettlement. Refugees can access information about resettlement to Canada from a number of sources, including:
- The International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides pre-departure orientation workshops for refugees resettling to Canada;
- UNHCR provides information during counselling sessions and individual encounters with refugees regarding life in Canada. The UNHCR Resettlement Handbook chapter on Canada also provides publicly accessible information about the resettlement process in Canada;
- Sponsoring groups can provide helpful information about the community they will resettle in; and
- The Government of Canada’s website contains information about various services refugees will be able to access once in Canada.
It is important that refugees are able to learn about the differences, challenges, and opportunities they will meet in their country of resettlement. The IOM provides pre-departure orientation workshops for refugees resettling in Canada through its “Canadian Orientation Abroad” program. The workshops cover many subjects such as refugees’ rights and status; the kind of support they can expect from the host government; the social, cultural, and economic make-up of Canada; local laws; safety; health; education; housing; language courses; and more. IOM will also provide information about the destination community where possible/available. This orientation is very important for resettled refugees as many may have little, if any, knowledge of Canadian societal and economic practices.
Sponsoring groups may also provide helpful information to refugees about life in their future community of resettlement. Pre-arrival contact is particularly beneficial because sponsors can answer the refugees’ questions and prepare them for their arrival in Canada. The Government of Canada’s website also offers information on accessing healthcare and housing, planning finances, enrolling in schools, transportation, improving English and French, and connecting with other immigrant communities. Canada has also developed multilingual information bulletins for refugees that are distributed by some visa officers at the refugees’ overseas interview.
It is important that all actors helping to prepare refugees for resettlement to Canada manage expectations carefully to ensure the resettlement process is not undermined by tensions, anxieties, and unrealistic expectations. All actors working with refugees should provide clear and consistent information on the limits and possibilities of resettlement. In this regard, disseminating accurate information to refugee communities already in resettlement countries is important for reducing unrealistic resettlement expectations. All family members should receive appropriate counselling to prepare for resettlement.
In the case of UNHCR referrals, UNHCR ensures utmost transparency regarding resettlement processing, highlighting that resettlement takes place based on set criteria and follows defined procedures. Any significant changes to the anticipated processing times or procedures should be communicated promptly. Refugees are also informed of the uncertainties and problems that may arise during the resettlement process, and that the ultimate decision rests with the resettlement country.