Hopeful Syrians learn about Finnish society and customs

Useful words/Tarpeellisia sanojaLearning Finnish words was the most hilarious part of the recent Pre-Departure Orientation training that was held for Finland-bound quota refugees in Turkey. Over 200 persons, all of them Syrian, participated in the three-day training organized by IOM Finland in partnership with IOM Ankara Country office and the Diaconia University of Applied Sciences.

“They are all very hopeful for their future. Many talked about how good this will be for their children, to come to a safe place where they can go to school again”, says Hanna Viljamaa, IOM Finland’s Migrant Training and Integration Project Coordinator.

In the children´s group the focus of cultural orientation was on practical issues. “Pipo” and “hanskat” (woollen hat and gloves) are words that these Syrian children will learn the true use for some months from now. They also looked at a video showing what the first day in a Finnish school can be like. When they were asked to tell about their wishes for life in Finland going to school was high on the list, followed by what professions they hoped to have, homes and in one case a rabbit.

For the adults it was more about facts about Finland and Finnish culture, even if the long Finnish words they learned made all the groups smile. The idea of pre-departure orientation is to give the refugees practical information about the country they are moving to and to give them realistic expectations of what life will be like in Finland. Pre-departure orientation starts their integration process and helps the successful resettlement in Finland. The refugees have the possibility of asking questions during open sessions and the trainers are able to debunk myths that have spread about life and culture in Finland.

Lecture on municipalities/ Luento kunnista

“They were interested in everything about Finland. We got to answer questions like “Do children have access to schools right from the arrival?”, “I am a nurse – can I work as a nurse in Finland?”, “Are women allowed to wear a headscarf at work?”, “Is there halal-meat in Finland?”,  or “Is gender equality really reality in Finland?”. Everyone is interested in how to join the workforce and how to find a job or continue their interrupted studies”, says Ms. Viljamaa.

During the three days the trainers went through many different aspects of life in Finland and practicalities related to the refugees´ travel to Finland. They covered everything from for instance how to pack your bags and what to bring and not to bring to the airplane, the seasons and weather, Finnish culture and cultural shock, schools, healthcare, employment and taxes, social security, equality and the role of women. Finnish lessons were also provided every day.

Finnish pre-departure orientation training is led by the Finnish Immigration Service with support of EU´s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

Usually the quota refugees are resettled in Finland during the six months that follow the training. IOM handles the logistics of the resettlement, but the decisions of yearly quota is made by the Finnish parliament, and the final selection of quota refugees to be resettled in Finland is made by Finnish Immigration Service.

Link to the version in Finnish.