A migrants journey to provide
Ibrahim, a simple man from Damietta had only wanted to improve the standard of living and situation of his family. So after hearing from people in his community that he could travel to Greece and make a living there hundreds of times better than anything he could imagine here and be able to fully support his family pay, for the education of his children and make a better life for himself than he could have with simple inconsistent agricultural labor. Taking the initiative, he reached out to those who spoke of this chance at a better life and arranged for the travel expenses. Scraping, borrowing, and selling to gather the needed funds he finally had enough to travel to Greece. Taking a ship and spending 3 harrowing days at the mercy of the waves of an indifferent sea. Upon arrival he had found that it was not at all as he had imagined or promised. Finding work was near impossible and finding work that could support him and allow him to send money to his family was a fantasy. Living off the kindness of strangers he decided that he would be able to better take care of his family so he approached IOM to help him returning home. Once he had returned he decided that he wanted to start his own business, and after some thought and counseling he found that opening a fodder shop will provide a modest form of income and still be in a field where he had experience. A year on it is successful and he is able to keep up with most payments and with all his children in school and finally feeling that he is able to keep his head above water.
Not all stories are a immediate monetary success, but with the right amount of determination people can find their way to move mountains, help themselves and those around them.
Mohamed , a Sudanese young man came to Egypt as transit country regularly in April 2015 to pursue his dream to find a better job opportunity and get a better life in Libya as final destination. As soon as he arrived, unfortunately, he was caught by the Egyptian authority in a Governmental holding facility in Salloum, Western porter of Egypt. Mohamed spent in Salloum a couple of months before the authorities transferred him to Qanater Governmental holding facilities in Cairo. The case was referred to IOM through Immigration Authorities and IOM caseworkers screened the applicant and due to his vulnerability, IOM assisted him under the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme (AVRR). IOM assisted him with ticket back to Sudan, pocket money and reintegration amount to be used in several purposes such as education, housing, or business set up. After his return, Mohamed contacted IOM Sudan and he decided to use the reintegration assistance to open Grocery business. With the help of IOM, he bought different commodities and started his business. But due to the lack of experience and lack of funds to consolidate, he has to close the business, he decided to sell all the items he bought and start a new business. After much advice from friends and family, he decided to return to his job before leaving Sudan and sell spare parts for car. Nowadays he is able to work, support his four brothers, mother and grandmother and he intends to expand his business in the future.
Partnerships and success can manifest itself in the strangest of places, yet it shows the power of motivation and determination, and friendship in the unlikeliest of places
Bila and Fanta, two ambitious young women from Ethiopia, came to Egypt in 2011, 2012 respectively looking for job opportunity to support her family back in Ethiopia. Bila worked as a domestic worker for two families during her stay in Egypt. After long years of work and exhaustion, she decided to go back to her country of origin Ethiopia to start a new life. Fanta graduated from high school in Addis Ababa, she was shocked when she found out that the only job available in Egypt is domestic work. Due to her needs, Fanta accepted to work as a domestic worker for a family in Cairo from the end of 2012 and for three years. However, Fanta could not afford to work as a domestic assistance anymore, as a result, she decided to return to Ethiopia. From the Ethiopian community, Bila and Fanta heard about Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme (AVRR) supported by the International Organization for migration (IOM), they approached the office asking for IOM assistance to return to Ethiopia. IOM helped Bila and Fanta safely returned to Ethiopia on the same flight and decided to use their reintegration assistance together. The two young ladies decided to use their reintegration amount together to enhance the business. According to them: “we have taken advantage of working together by summing up the amounts”. They didn’t stop here, they also expanded their business and expanded their family business and entered with them in a successful partnership that has permitted them to gain more profits.
An example of what it means to dream big and use determination to achieve ones goals
Having been unable to live a sustainable life in Egypt Hassan had decided to take what meager funds that he had and migrated to Libya. Working in Libya for 2 months and trying to save up his earnings to move on he had traveled to Italy with the greater objective of moving to Holland, but with the financial stresses and the inability to find work in any sustainable way, Hassan found himself in Switzerland. Even then he had not given up, working simple jobs in ceramics and trying to make ends meet, but with a lack of documentation for residency and honest work, he found that this was unsustainable. Upon his return to Egypt, Hassan had decided that this was a chance in a lifetime to fulfill his ambitions, with a staggering level of ambition Hassan had chosen fulfill his dreams of becoming a real entrepreneur. Drawing upon his specific interests and knowledge with the addition of known connections, he sought to tap into the Egyptian fruit export market. A truly ambitious endeavor Hassan sought to use his reintegration grant to purchase in Egypt a container of assorted fruits, in seasonal demand in neighboring Jordan and selling them to wholesalers in Jordan. This was truly a large scale endeavor that Hassan sees potential in, using the profits from the first sale to create a real cycle of business that will allow him to finally feel financial security.
“It gave me the most viable solution to return back to live beside my parents without struggling a lot in the process.”
Travelling to Europe in the 1990s, Hassan embarked on a quest to become the architect of his own life. Taking charge of his destiny, he left the home he was born and raised in for a new, hopefully greener pasture. After overstaying his visa in the EU, he sought legal assistance to find a more stable residency Hassan worked in Europe for over twenty years, trying every sector imaginable: from serving coffee to retail. But the long stay took its toll on him, having so far away from home and family, he often dreamt of returning home to Egypt. Missing his home and family, Hassan decided to seek support to return home. After careful consultation with friends, family, and IOM, Hassan settled on a plan to begin a new business in Etai El Baroud, his hometown. Having decided to return to his rural roots, he invested time working on his plans for reintegration, researching the market environment for a duration of 4 months and gathering as much information on the requirements for opening a poultry farm. At the start, he worked in partnership with his brother, and though it was not as successful as they had anticipated, it proved to be a solid starting point. With each new crop of chickens, Hassan succeeded in improving his management of the farm-it reflected in his income as it gradually increased. Reinvesting his profits, Hassan expanded his farm further, and along with his experience, it grew and prospered. Today the farm is not only a source of income for Hassan and his business partners, but also acts as a source of gainful employment for the local community, employing two labourers and indirectly supporting others including a driver, a young carpenter, and a recycling team. While he does at times miss his life in Europe, he is still proud that he managed to build a profitable buisness at home, close to his family and roots. “It gave me the most viable solution to return back to live beside my parents without struggling a lot in the process.”
“When our lives reach […] extreme poverty, we start making irrational decisions, that are not necessary right, but essential [for our survival].”
Mr. Hafez is a very vivid man in his forties whose family is his main priority in life. Struggling to find a decent job, after the closure of his kiosk, Mr. Hafez was convinced by one of his friends to take the dangerous overseas journey to Italy. Mr. Hafez remembers this decision very well: “When our lives reach […] extreme poverty, we start making irrational decisions, that are not necessary right, but essential [for our survival].”
Hafez started his journey from a small town in Alexandria where boats travelling to Europe on regular basis can often be found in harbour. Mr. Hafez paid more than 30,000 EGP for his journey to Italy, and to his surprise, the total sum meant 4 days at sea in harsh conditions. When Mr. Hafez reached Greece, he was devastated and started to question his decision to leave Egypt. “I sold a piece of land, I borrowed from families/friends and I sold all the items in my failed kiosk, and till now I am still paying my journey’s debt,” Mr. Hafez said of his voyage.
Through the referral of friends, Mr. Hafez went to IOM in Greece and passed the screening phase, after which he was given a reintegration grant with which he could embark on a new — and hopefully more sustainable — opportunity.
Upon his return, Mr. Hafez decided to reopen his kiosk with his reintegration grant, but this time in a more populated district and with more intensive operations to ensure a decent cash flow and enhance the profitability of the kiosk. With around 40,000 EGP, Mr. Hafez included all sorts of food and cigarette products, as well as an ice-cream machine that contributed a great deal to the profit of the kiosk. When asking Hafez about his level of satisfaction regarding the grant he stated, “Definitely the grant helped me once again start providing to my family, without it, I would have been still sleeping in the streets of Crete.”
From not being able to maintain himself in Egypt, to becoming a entrepreneur in Sudan, Mr. Hassan went through a lot to support his family financially.
Mr. Hassan (the name of our protagonist has been changed) came to Egypt in January 2017 looking for a better future for him and for his family. However, things didn’t go as he expected. Mr. Hassan situation in Egypt was very difficult, because he was working three days per week only. Besides, the income was not enough to cover his livelihood expenses.
Mr. Hassan’s wife and mother in Sudan needed his financial support as they were depending on him, and from his situation here, unfortunately he was not able to support them. One year later, Mr. Hassan discovered that there is no need to stay in Egypt as he is not even able to cover his own expenses. But even after understanding that, he didn’t have the means to return back to Sudan. That's when he was informed about the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme implemented by IOM, so he decided to approach IOM requesting its assistance. As stranded migrant in Egypt, IOM assisted Mr. Hassan with both return and reintegration assistance.
After returning to Sudan, Mr. Hassan decided to use the reintegration assistance in an income generating project and sell spare parts for “Tuk-tuk” (also called ricksha).However, Mr. Hassan was in an area where there is no need for such business. Mr. Hassan thought about a better mean to meet his need and his family needs. He did a market survey and discovered that the market is need of plastic bags.
Mr. Hassan changed the business plan and bought the needed machines to manufacture plastic bags. Mr. Hassan new business is now fully operational and he was finally able to support his family.
Ahmed, who sold everything he had back in 2016 to make the journey to Europe, was able to return home and open a dairy farm, utilizing his grant and his already significant agricultural and farming skills to further develop the farm he was able to open, turning the vague promise of opportunities into a reward brought by dedication, hard work, and perseverance.
Located in Behira, Egypt, is a dairy farm built for Mr. Ahmed Abdel Maqsood El-Nagger, a young Egyptian returnee from Greece who crossed the forbidding Mediterranean Sea, hoping for a better future. Ahmed, a passionate man intent on working hard and paving his own way in the world, had been told all throughout his life of the myriad of opportunities in European countries. Europe was a promise of a better life that Ahmed wanted to chase.
Starting the journey from a coffee shop in Behira, Ahmed was approached by a smuggler who made many promises and few warnings of the danger this journey presented. Ahmed left Egypt in 2016, spending 3 days at sea with unstable boats, strong winds, and high sea levels. The journey was nearly fatal for Ahmed, who later said: “I will never risk my life again in the sea, it is a devastating journey.”
As soon as Ahmed reached the island of Crete, he was placed in detention, where he stayed for over 1 month until IOM’s AVRR team approached him, after he expressed his desire to return home, and offered him the voluntary return option with a small project grant to enable him to reintegrate smoothly within his community. Ahmed decided to go through with the screening process, and, after approval, was offered a reintegration grant, provided by the Greek Ministry of Interior. Ahmed, who sold everything he had back in 2016 to make the journey to Europe, was able to return home and open a dairy farm, utilizing his grant and his already significant agricultural and farming skills to further develop the farm he was able to open, turning the vague promise of opportunities into a reward brought by dedication, hard work, and perseverance.
Afiba decided to use the reintegration amount to pay for a computer engineering training, that will help him to set up a small computer engineering shop.
Afiba came to Egypt in 2012, after finishing his high school in Nigeria, to study in the University. Afiba was always dreaming to go back to his family and visit them but unfortunately, he couldn’t he had to finish his studies first.
After finishing his studies at the university, he approached IOM to assist him to return back to his home country. Eligible for Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration, he returned to Nigeria in April 2017 and was provided with reintegration amount to start his life.
Afiba wanted to continue his studies and to have a masters degree, but he decided to use the reintegration grant in a manner that will help him to sustain himself and hopefully his family financially.
Afiba decided to use the reintegration amount to pay for a computer engineering training, that will help him to set up a small computer engineering shop. Besides the training, he decided to pay for the rent of his house for six months, the training duration.
IOM visited Afiba and he benefited from the training and he is now exploring the opportunity to open the planned shop to start gaining profit.
"You raise and feed your animals for months, and in one day you lose everything as a result of corrupted medicine. You start questioning the way you earn your living.”
Nour, a passionate man in his thirties with ten years of experience in the field poultry farming, found himself in a market full of corruption in the aftermath of the 25th of January Revolution. The corrupted medicine market in the poultry business destroyed his and many others’ poultry farms, and with it their livelihoods.
Unable to provide for his family, Nour felt there was nothing left to lose, and the prospect of so much to gain if he could start over somewhere new—somewhere with thriving labour markets, strong currency, and reasonable wages. He booked an airplane ticket to Turkey in 2014, where he worked in a sugar factory. Although his life was stable, his ultimate goal was Italy, where he believed he could find the economy, job demand, and wages he had come to Europe in search of. Smugglers would allow him to pay for his journey after reaching Europe if he went by boat, so after sixteen months in Turkey, Nour packed up and left. In only four hours they had left Turkey and landed in Europe—but not the part of Europe Nour had hoped for. He was stuck in the Greece with no path to Italy and very limited opportunities to earn income.
After one month there, Nour began think about how to go home to Egypt. Through recommendations by friends he approached IOM Greece, where he was able to receive assistance in returning to Egypt and was given a reintegration grant to be used upon his return. Once back in Egypt, he bought 10,000 chicks, and in only 45 days they were worth a profit of more than 500 USD. Nour, finally reunited with his family and able to sustainably provide for them, stated: "My wife is thanking God that her husband started earning a decent income and is living with his children […] the reintegration grant absolutely gave me a push forward to re-start my old business in poultry farming.”
Today, Abdel Hamid dreams of living the rest of his days in Egypt and spending his time with his two young children in peace and prosperity, but only a year ago Mr. Hamid was still in the midst of his international journey through Turkey, Greece, and the dangerous waters of the Mediterranean.
Pressured by the economic situation in the country, Mr. Hamid was attracted to the idea of migration, hoping that all his problems would be solved as soon as he reached European soil. A 40-year-old man from Meet Sehl, a city in rural Egypt, he decided to take the perilous journey when he was approached by a smuggler who convinced him that the journey to Europe was an easy one. Not long after, Mr. Hamid was on a plane and on his way to Turkey, where he would work in a paint factory. His economic status was stable until the 2016 coup attempt, which shook the country’s economic stability. It was then that he decided to get a place on a boat to Greece, where he hoped life would be better.
The journey was perilous, and Mr. Hamid witnessed the death of others as they attempted to reach the promising shores of Europe. As soon as they entered the territorial waters of Greece, he and the other passengers were captured by rescue boats. When asked if he was subjected to any kind of exploitation, he said: “They treated us awfully until we were sent to a detention [centre] on the Island of Mytilene.” Once there, he was offered food, water, and clothes. He was then approached by IOM’s AVRR team in coordination with the Greek Ministry of Interior, and after being found eligible, was approved for a reintegration grant of 1500EUR.
Upon his return, Mr. Hamid explored the sectors with that were most needed in his hometown, with the support of IOM counseling sessions, and decided to open a fodder shop to support friends and families that already owned dairy farms. For him, such product will be in demand as long as there is a demand for dairy, and it is continuously sold in his rural hometown where the percentage of livestock is very high. When asked about the extent to which IOM’s assistance helped his psychological, economic. And social well-being, he said: “Without IOM’s support I would […] still [be] struggling in a Greek detention center.”
At age 18, Mr. Estafnouse set out for Europe, hoping to find work opportunities and a better future. He was a passionate, hardworking, and enthusiastic man determined to overcome any challenge that came his way.
Mr. Estafnouse soon reached Cyprus, where his brother was residing, and shortly realized the complexity of securing a legal residency and decent job. He then moved to Italy, where he stayed for nearly two years, working and acquiring experience in pizza and pasta making. While his income was decent, he remained challenged by his irregular stay which led him to travel to the Netherlands, where he stayed for almost 15 years. Despite his numerous attempts to regularize his situation, Mr. Estafnouse failed to secure permanent legal status, and thus decided to return to his home country.
Encouraged by a friend, Mr. Estafnouse reached out to IOM and was able to return to Egypt in 2014. He used his 1500USD reintegration grant to rent a small venue and buy the equipment needed to open a restaurant in his hometown, Menoufeya. The demand on the business was not high, forcing him to close the business only after 3 months of operation. Discussing the closure, Mr. Estafnouse said, “The main reason why my restaurant [was unsuccessful] is the wrong location where the demand on such services was relatively low.”
Today Mr. Estafnouse works as a chef in a restaurant in Menoufeya. He is making significant effort to improve his skills and has shown interest in being enrolled in training programmes to enhance his skills as a chef. Mr. Estafnouse’s experiences have taught him much about owning a business, managing a restaurant, and the factors that play into a start-up’s success, which he hopes to capitalize on in the future.
For Refat Faltus, two things matter as he sets out to his grocery store every morning: serving his neighbors and the families around his shop, and working with a smile. A quiet, dignified man from Suhag in Upper Egypt, his growing business nestled in a family-centric neighborhood in Egypt belies the far-flung journeys of the man behind the humble grocery store and generous smiles.
The aftermath of the January 25th Revolution in Egypt left many in economic uncertainty. Mr. Faltus likewise found himself looking for opportunities outside of the country he knew and loved, and under the advice of a friend, decided to migrate to Italy in search of work. Promised a job contract on a farm, Mr. Faltus entered Italy with high hopes of a steady wage, certain future, and the ability to support his family back home. But all too soon he was informed that the contract was temporary, and purely for the purposes of obtaining a legal entry and residency permit. Disappointed and anxious about his financial stability in Italy, Mr. Faltus moved to the Netherlands, where he worked tirelessly for restaurants, cafes, and farms whenever and wherever he could.
Despite his exhaustive efforts, the living costs in Europe often exceeded his income, and the instability of his work environment meant he was unable to provide for his family in Egypt. With an expired residency permit and no substantial means of supporting himself and his family, Mr. Faltus decided to return home. Referred by friends to IOM, he was approved for a 1500EUR grant for an income-generating activity in Egypt. Mr. Faltus returned home and decided to open a grocery store, seeing a need in his neighborhood. Shortly after opening the shop, he decided to expand his operations into stationary and printing. Today Mr. Faltus provides this service to schools, teachers, and students in the neighborhood, as well as the rest of the neighborhood with the other food and goods in his store. Two years on, Mr. Faltus told IOM: "Without IOM’s support, I couldn’t have made it. Now I have two employees, and in three years we are planning to expand our business by renting a second shop and buying three more photocopy machines to increase our profit.”
With a smile on his and his employees’ faces he humbly, and happily, services his community, his family, and his friends, with a grocery store, two employees, and a photocopy machine.
Sherif originally hails from Alexandria, Egypt. He was driven to migrate to Europe out of severe financial hardship, which made it practically impossible for him to marry the woman he loved. Believing his best chances at financial independence and success to lay outside his native land, Sherif migrated to the Netherlands in 2001, where he hoped he would be able to gather the necessary financial resources to start his married life within three years of his arrival.
Sherif was able to secure a residency permit through an asylum application in 2003. Unfortunately, once in the Netherlands, he faced difficult financial straits, job insecurity, and a high cost of living. A few years passed, and he found himself with little more financial resources than he had when he first arrived. And so three years of working in restaurants, cafes, and as a deliveryman slowly turned into fifteen.
The Dutch legal system tightened its migration restrictions, and Sherif found himself without a residency permit, and without protection. He was left open to repeated exploitation and humiliation upon the expiration of his residency, and began to dream of home once again.
In 2015, Sherif was referred by a friend to IOM’s offices in the Netherlands. Eligible for assisted voluntary return and reintegration, he was granted a reintegration fund of 1500EUR with which he could start a microbusiness in his hometown in Egypt.
Upon returning to Alexandria, and thanks to the support of his family, friends, and neighbours, Sherif invested his own savings and capital and went into business with his brother, opening a minimarket.
Today, two years after coming back to Egypt, Sherif and his brother run their business with success and renewed faith in their dreams, even if life as a business owner can and does come with its own set of challenges.
Finally reunited with his fiancée, Sherif said: “[IOM’s grant] definitely supported me [in entering] a partnership with my brother […] I am now married to the love of my life, and I was recently gifted with my son, Omar.”
For Ahmed Ghazy, migration seemed an inevitable part of finding success and promising opportunities. This led him to the Netherlands, where he believed economic prosperity was a matter of dedication and hard work. These notions were quickly called into question when, despite his work ethic, he found himself in the Netherlands with an expired visa, no residency, and no regular means of employment.
Finding a job as an irregular migrant proved nearly impossible, and for five months he struggled fruitlessly, until he was approached by an Egyptian friend, who offered him a job as a cleaner in a restaurant for 25 EUR a day. While the income was sufficient for his basic needs, the restaurant’s owner did not allow him to work without residency for an extended period.
Mr. Ghazy at last found an employment opportunity, working in another restaurant for upward of 16 hours a day. He had managed to sustain himself financially until the owner let him go to cut some of the restaurant’s expenses. Mr. Ghazy was left without recourse, and questioned what he could possibly do next; it was at this difficult time that he learned his mother, still living in Egypt, was seriously ill.
Through word of mouth, Mr. Ghazy found out about the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme, and decided to take this opportunity to go back to Egypt. He successfully passed the screening procedure, and decided to leave the country with the added help of a reintegration grant to be used to open a business in Egypt.
Upon returning to Egypt he used the grant to open an electronics store, which due to the economic climate and low demand became financially insecure. He now works in the fabric business, selling bed sheets in addition to his job at a poultry farm. Mr. Ghazy still sees the beauty and possibilities represented by regular migration, and knows that opportunities abound when regular means of migration are possible.
AVRR Egypt is composed of our core support teams that work tirelessly to support the return and reintegration of migrants. If you would like to contribute or request more information about this programme, please get in touch with us via , or .
Data from 2011 – 2015 includes Return only. Data from 2016 – 2018 includes Return and Reintegration.
This AVRR Map was designed and developed pro bono by SilverKey Technologies