Communication scholars advise COA on information for new asylum seekers

Vrijwilligers geven taalles in een asielzoekerscentrum ©
Volunteers give language lessons in an asylum seeker center ©

How do asylum seekers who have just arrived in the Netherlands experience the information they receive from the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA)? Communication researchers Prof. Dr. Jan D. ten Thije (emeritus) and Dr. Inge Versteegt investigated this in cooperation with research institute Regioplan, at the request of COA. Houda Al Kalaf, master student of Intercultural Communication and Syrian refugee herself, contributed to the research with her thesis. The asylum seekers who participated in the study are reasonably satisfied with the content and timing of the information, but they also mention several points where the provision of information could be improved. The researchers make recommendations in this regard.

Upon arrival, asylum seekers are given information about various topics relevant to life in and around an asylum seekers' center, both about basic services (food, clothing, shelter) and self-sufficiency, about everyday issues such as house rules and opportunities for day care, but also about issues such as health care and, of course, the asylum procedure. Effective communication is a challenge because there are great differences between individuals in terms of cultural background, level of education, age, the languages they speak, and the degree to which they experience trauma and stress. Based on their expertise of intercultural communication, the researchers identify various points of attention, including the use of other languages than English and the accessibility of contact persons.

Woonruimte in een asielzoekerscentrum ©
Living spaces in an asylum-seeker center ©