Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA)
The Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) program is a global initiative funded by the Government of Canada, through its department for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and is implemented worldwide through the International Organization got Migration (IOM).
Since its inception in 1998, the COA program has offered pre-departure orientation and services to over 260,000 newcomers to Canada. The cornerstones of the COA training are:
- To provide refugees with pertinent and accurate information about life in Canada
- To help refugees develop realistic expectations about resettlement in Canada
- To develop refugees’ awareness of the skills necessary for successful adaptation, especially during their first 6 months of stay in Canada; and
- To address refugees’ concerns and questions.
The COA program consists in a three-day group training session for adults and of a one-day group session for youth. The training allows refugees a safe space in which they may interact with both the other participants and the COA trainer respectively.
A broad range of topics are covered during COA, which include: Canadian geography; Canadian climate; what to pack and the travel journey, rights, responsibilities and the law in Canada, arrival services in Canada, housing, health care, employment, money, banking and budgeting, as well as culture shock and cultural adaptation. COA sets realistic expectations about life in Canada while dispelling any rumours and misconceptions refugees may have come across.
By the end of the training, participants are equipped with adequate knowledge, skills and attitudes to adapt to their new environment. The training concludes with a graduation ceremony during which participants receive a Certificate of participation.
Before the end of the training, the COA facilitator invites participants to keep in touch through e-mail. Once in Canada, participants often write back to inform about their safe arrival and well-being in Canada.
The COA is unique in its approach as it does not teach about Canadian culture, but rather equips participants with the necessary know-how. The program aims to maximize the potential of all newcomers to Canada. Participants report that they feel better prepared for the move, know what they need to do upon arrival, are more likely to use settlement services in their city of destination, and ultimately succeed in their adaptation and integration.
COA – Transforming refugees’ lives through pre-departure orientation.
Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR)
Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is the administrative, financial and logistical support that IOM provides to a variety of migrants who wish to return home, including those who travelled for economic reasons, unaccompanied children and victims of trafficking. AVRR process commences with IOM interviewing migrants who have indicated willingness to return to the country of origin, and assists with travel logistics and flights.
To date, IOM has facilitated returns of 770 migrants to return home safely under the European Union (EU) funded Pilot Action on Voluntary Return and Sustainable, Community-based Reintegration in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Since March 2017, IOM has been implementing the Pilot Action strengthen the delivery of voluntary return assistance in South Africa through institutional strengthening and capacity building activities to address the protection needs of stranded and vulnerable migrants in South Africa.
In addition to the voluntary return assistance provided to 770 migrants, IOM through the Pilot Action has contributed to the achievement of ensuring that stranded and vulnerable return in a safe and dignified manner. Some milestones as indicated below have also been achieved:
• Adoption of a Standard Operating Procedures for AVR by the stakeholders, which has contributed to ensuring a coherent approach in how AVR is carried out in the country;
• Development of a capacity building plan and training curriculum on AVR and migration issues. The curriculum is developed to institutionalize AVR operations into the training activities of key government agencies in the country; and
• The capacities of over 300 national stakeholders (state and non-state actors) were strengthened through capacity building activities implemented under the Pilot Action.
IOM is working in close partnership with key government departments in the country such as the Departments of Home Affairs, Social Development, Labour and Employment, Basic Education, Health and civil society partners.