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.
At 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.