People can only be happy where they belong

Maan Taher 2 webIRAQ

My family moved from Iraq to the Netherlands at the proposal and invitation of relatives. My image of the Netherlands was one of freedom, democracy and respect. This picture was confirmed and further strengthened after we arrived in the Netherlands: we received very good care and felt welcomed by the authorities. I was dreaming of building up new lives here, in full dignity.
Then my perception changed. Not of the Netherlands, but of our position in the Netherlands. I realized how very different the mentality, culture and customs were from ours. I began having second thoughts and mixed feelings about our decision to settle in the Netherlands. Eventually, I ended up with serious doubts whether I would ever get accustomed to living in the Netherlands, or if my children would. You see, we come from a pretty conservative background.
So we decided to go home. We were referred to IOM and received support to organize our return. In addition, we were given the option to make use of reintegration funds, and we made a plan. We decided to use the money to start a small family business. In the beginning, we did not have any income. It was really hard; there were days when we simply could not make ends meet. But we did manage to open a small factory producing construction materials. Little by little, things improved. After only a few months, we began making a profit. With IDQ 750,000 (approximately € 600) we could afford to live a decent life in Iraq. But really the most important thing was that our children were indeed happy.
Maan Taher 1 webAt the moment, Iraq is going through an economic recession. Oil prices have dropped. Our profit from the factory shows it too: our income is smaller now and we are kind of struggling at the moment. But we’re not going anywhere, we’re staying home. If our small business fails, we’ll just start anew, from scratch, if necessary.
We are so grateful to IOM, both in Netherlands and in Iraq, and particularly to our IOM case manager, who closely guided and assisted us throughout the process. The IOM people were really instrumental in how our life turned out in Iraq.
When people wonder whether to stay or to return and when they do not know which road to take - I would simply advise them to just go home. People can only be happy there where they belong.

The story of a sari-sari shop


My name is Bea* and I could not remain in the Netherlands. My application for residence there was denied. But there was more to it than that… I experienced the Dutch culture as very different from my own and I simply missed my family. After speaking with IOM, I learned that they can help me with organizing something for my life in the Philippines after return. It was an important moment for me to start thinking of a plan for the future, to focus on what I wanted to do. I decided to return home. Through IOM, I received financial support, which I used to set up a business.

I decided to set up a sari-sari, which is a kind of mom & pop shop selling basic commodities like cooking oil, salt & sugar, flour, canned goods, and candies. These small independent family-owned mini-shops are very popular here in the Philippines. It is a convenient way for the locals to shop for the basic stuff. You can find one at almost every corner, but it so happens that there weren’t too many of them in my neighbourhood. It was great that I did not have to deal with much competition, so I really felt it would be a good business opportunity. So a few months ago I opened the store in my parents' house. I spent a part of my reintegration grant from IOM to buy my first stock of merchandise. Now the business is going quite well. I look at what people buy on a regular basis and this gives me a pretty good idea of what I need to keep in stock.

However, although the shop is doing well, the money I make from it is not enough to support my family, so I am actually looking for a part time job to supplement our income. But I must say that my little shop has helped me deal with a lot of my anxieties over the future, because it does provide us with a steady income. It is a relief to know we have a safety net of sorts, for the livelihood of my parents, my younger brother and myself.

*The migrant’s name has been changed for privacy purposes.

“It has not been easy to adapt to a country I left more than ten years ago”

My name is Alejandra*. I live in Colombia.Colombia small

I was two years old when I left Colombia for Europe. My grandma and I first lived with my uncle in Spain. We moved to Amsterdam when it became clear that he could no longer support us. Living in the Netherlands proved very complicated, primarily because we did not have the right papers. My grandma, for instance, required special medical care because of her age but she had no health insurance over there. I also missed my parents badly. I had not seen them in years.

When I was almost sixteen, my grandma and I decided to return to Bogotá. We first stayed at my dad’s place. I was really happy to be reunited with him, but due to his drug problems it did not work out. My mom partied a lot, so we could not stay with her either. Fortunately my grandma found a small but secure apartment, and we moved in. The rent is high but somehow we cope. With the reintegration support my grandma bought some basic furniture for the apartment and even a computer for me. We used the remaining money for my dental treatment and my education.

My grandma finds strength in her faith and gives me moral guidance. I do not know what I would do without her. Sometimes I am stressed and a little bit sad, as it has not been easy to adapt to my new life and to a country I left more than ten years ago. But I am graduating from high school soon, and hopefully I will be able to continue my studies at university.

  *All names are fictitious

“I knew it would be hard to remain in the Netherlands"

My name is Célia*. I live in Angola.Angola small

I returned to Angola in 2010 with my mother and my niece Felicidade. Deciding to return was a difficult decision, especially since my mother was ill and I had my six-year-old niece with me. I might have chosen a different path if I had been in the Netherlands alone, but I had to think about my family. I knew that it would be hard on them to remain there without papers.

We came to the Netherlands in search of medical treatment for my mother and education for my niece. We were very disappointed that we were not allowed to stay. I was especially worried about how this would affect my niece.

At first it was also not easy being back in Angola. Sometimes I still wish we could have stayed in the Netherlands. Luckily, we have some friends in Angola who helped us find a place to rent. The landlord is nice and patient with us when we are late with the rent. My niece is happy at school; however, my mother’s health is not improving.

With the support we received, we paid my niece’s school fees, we purchased medication for my mother and I set up a small sewing shop. Opening a sewing shop in Angola brought with it many challenges, so I have changed my focus to purchasing second-hand clothing in bulk for resale in the market. I make just enough to support my mother, my niece and myself.

Sometimes I think I would like to go back to the Netherlands, but only with the right papers. It would be good for my mother because medical treatment is much better over there.

  *All names are fictitious


“It is important to have a dream”

My name is Namir*. I live in Afghanistan.Afghanistan small

The Netherlands is so different from my country.
I did not have the right papers there and that made me nervous. I also missed my family. One day I had enough. I felt too insecure about my future, and I wanted to go home.

But returning without anything would have made me feel ashamed. I only wanted to go back to Afghanistan when I had a clear plan for the future. I was once a shepherd, but also trained and worked as a mechanic. I wanted to use this knowledge to start my own business.

Once I had a workable plan, I felt confident about returning home. I decided to start a small metal workshop in Kabul. My technical expertise was good, but I did not have enough money to start my business.
I also had doubts whether I could earn enough money to support my family. I contacted an old friend in my village, and we decided to go into business together.

In our shop we sell iron boxes, heaters, ovens and other metal products. My friend discovered that there is high demand for metal products. I would like to continue the business partnership because it works well, however sometime in the future when I make enough money I plan to start my own business. It is important to have a dream.

 *All names are fictitious


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