IOM Project Officer Mei Li: “I want to be there for them when I can”

Meili 2"I have been working as Project Officer for IOM for nine years. Listening to various stories from migrants during my consultation hours, I often realize that I could have been in their position; I could have been sitting on the other side of the desk,” says Mei Li.

Born in Beijing, China, Mei came to the Netherlands nineteen years ago in view of medical treatment. She remained in the Netherlands where, step by step, she rebuilt her life.

“My job is part of IOM’s core activity, assisting migrants who want to return voluntarily to their countries of origin. Through this AVRR programme, IOM helps migrants to prepare their return and to rebuild their lives. Our beneficiaries are people whose application for asylum was rejected or withdrawn, stranded migrants, victims of trafficking and other vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied migrant children, or people with health-related needs.”

“Since I am from China, most migrants I meet are Chinese. They feel more comfortable speaking their mother tongue when discussing important personal issues relating to their future back home.
It is 10:00 AM in Pauluskerk, Rotterdam. My first appointment this morning for individual counselling on return and reintegration starts with a young (ex) asylum seeker. This highly (university?) educated young Chinese man decided to go back to his home country to rebuild his life.”Meili

“My second beneficiary is a thirty-year-old man with a serious burnout from working long hours in a restaurant, which is why he lost his working permit in the Netherlands. This means he has to leave the country while his wife and two-year-old son will remain in the Netherlands. An Indonesian couple decided to go back to Indonesia because of a sick parent. My last migrant has a flight in few hours, but he can not take his luggage because of an unexpected police blockade after a murder which happened in the building where he lives.”

“Sometimes I meet migrants who for instance haven’t seen a doctor for years even if they were sick. They were so afraid to be identified as illegal in the Netherlands. Although I work on an appointment basis, there are occasions when irregular migrants drop by in my office out of the blue to ask if IOM can help them. This I value; I want to be there for them when I can.”