O Canada: New App Assists Refugees with Future Integration

A group of soon-to-be resettled refugees who have used the new O Canada Orientation app. Photo: IOM/Ashley Yoojung Ha 2023

Geneva, 30 January – The latest innovative mobile application developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is helping soon-to-be resettled refugees to access pre-departure orientation (PDO) information anytime, anywhere – improving their chances of successful integration once they arrive in Canada.  

The application will benefit all Canada-bound refugees, especially those who are unable to attend in-person PDO training sessions due to security concerns, illness or mobility challenges. Currently, 30 per cent of beneficiaries heading to Canada receive PDO training remotely.  

A 2021 report by IOM noted that four out of every five refugees in the process of resettlement to Canada own mobile phones and 70 per cent have reliable internet access, meaning that apps can be powerful tools for them to access information. 

IOM’s first PDO mobile application – O-Canada – is one of the many learning tools developed by the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA), IOM’s programme for Canada-bound refugees.  

“PDO training aims to empower migrants. It is an integral part of their resettlement journey,” said Jobst Koehler, senior integration and migrant training specialist. “The training sessions are an opportunity for migrants to learn about the destination country and form realistic expectations about the integration process prior to departure.” 

An early user of the app was a Somali mother of five living in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, who was just eight years old when she left Somalia with her mother. She downloaded the O-Canada mobile app on her mobile phone as soon as she found out that she and her family had been selected to move to Canada and started to get information in her own language.   

“We were selected to go to Canada, so we wanted to know more. That is why we got the app before even going to the first cultural orientation,” she said.  

It helped her start her learning and set her mind at rest about her new homeland.  

“I want to study and for my children to attend school as I work, because my responsibility as a parent, is to take care of my children,” she said. At first, she was worried that completing her studies would take too much time and that she would not be able to find work without a diploma.  

After completing the modules in the O-Canada App, her outlook changed. “I learned that there are many employment opportunities in Canada.” 

The COA programme, a global initiative funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, has provided pre-arrival settlement services to more than 340,000 refugees, immigrants, and labour migrants in over 100 countries since 1998. 

O-Canada was adapted from the content of in-person training sessions in the COA programme. It includes interactive activities, suitable for both young and older people – making integration into Canadian society easier. The mobile application has further complemented the COA training by allowing refugees to learn additional information at their own pace.  

Over the past 25 years, IOM has conducted PDO training sessions for over 800,000 refugees in over 70 locations worldwide. In 2022, IOM trained 61,202 beneficiaries. More than half of these beneficiaries were trained by the COA programme. 

The application is functional offline, making it accessible anytime and anywhere. It also allows users to create multiple accounts on one device, enabling people to use the application on a shared device. It is available in eight languages, including English, French, Arabic, Dari, Kiswahili, Somali, Spanish, and Tigrinya.  

The application is available to download from Google Play and Apple’s App Store. The promotional and instructional videos for the application in the eight languages are available on IOM’s YouTube channel.  


For more information, please contact:  


In Geneva: Tanishqua Kanetkar, Email   

Canadian Orientation Abroad: Tania Dargy, Email