Posted on: 2017/9/20 04:37

Faisal* , a young Nigerian student, came to study Arabic at Egypt's Al-Azhar University. After several years, before his period of study ended, he needed to find a suitable job in order to make a living. His only sources of income came from informal means, in addition to support from his community and a small scholarship from the Higher Islamic Council. Soon after he had started studying, Faisal’s wife Iman , joined him in Cairo. Towards the end of Faisal’s study, Iman’s parents bought her a ticket to return to Nigeria. Faisal couldn’t even think about buying a ticket for himself, since he was struggling to make a living, and so the couple were separated by their circumstance.

Faisal* , a young Nigerian student, came to study Arabic at Egypt's Al-Azhar University. After several years, before his period of study ended, he needed to find a suitable job in order to make a living. His only sources of income came from informal means, in addition to support from his community and a small scholarship from the Higher Islamic Council. Soon after he had started studying, Faisal’s wife Iman , joined him in Cairo. Towards the end of Faisal’s study, Iman’s parents bought her a ticket to return to Nigeria. Faisal couldn’t even think about buying a ticket for himself, since he was struggling to make a living, and so the couple were separated by their circumstance.

At some point” – said Faisal – “I realized I couldn’t live in Cairo anymore without a steady job. I was living with six other roommates in a small apartment and I couldn’t afford a better place.”

It was at that time that Faisal approached IOM to ask for assistance. As Faisal wanted to continue to try and make his situation in Egypt work, IOM assisted him under the localized assistance programme, to help him with his basic needs and to recover some stability in Egypt. During this time, he learned about the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme through IOM’s caseworkers and information brochures. After exhausting all possibilities in Egypt, he decided to go back to Nigeria to be with his family. Faisal was assisted by IOM with a flight ticket, pocket money, pre departure medical screening, airport assistance and a reintegration grant to support him in the beginning of a new life.

When Faisal returned, he met with an IOM caseworker in Nigeria and discussed his options on how to start a business. He decided to pursue his passion for technology and opened a computer shop. Along with the help of his family, IOM provided rent support. Through discussions with his caseworker, Faisal foresaw that the lack of consistent power supply in his country was one of the biggest struggles that his shop would encounter, so he decided to buy a generator to solve this problem.

(AVRR) is a very helpful programme; without it, I would have been very frustrated upon my return to Nigeria because things are really difficult here. I am very grateful for the assistance IOM has given me so far; I would like to expand my business into a big cyber café”.

Entrepreneurship is difficult, but as a popular Arabic proverb says, “a tree begins with a seed”.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the beneficiary

Posted on: 2017/8/30 05:10

With the lack of access to local sustainable economic opportunities, coupled with almost inexistent possibilities for regular migration, many Egyptians revert to migrate irregularly with the help of smugglers. The causes and roots of this phenomenon are multi-dimensional. It is not only the economic situation that pushes them to undertake such a risky journey but also the cultural and social struggles they face.

Many Egyptians living across the Mediterranean costal line of Egypt wish to emigrate [1]. They are inspired by stories of their friends who have immigrated to Europe and have boasted wealth and high living standards. For the younger generations, crossing to the opposite side of the Mediterranean Sea is a dream that becomes stronger as the harsh economic conditions in the country worsen. The lack of job opportunities and low income remain the major push factor for Egyptians. According to the Egypt Household International Migration Survey (Egypt-HIMS) published in 2015, more than 87% of Egyptians migrated for economic reasons, including to improve the standard of living.

With the lack of access to local sustainable economic opportunities, coupled with almost inexistent possibilities for regular migration, many revert to migrate irregularly with the help of smugglers. The causes and roots of this phenomenon are multi-dimensional. It is not only the economic situation that pushes them to undertake such a risky journey but also the cultural and social struggles they face.

Most Egyptians in underdeveloped areas experience the need to support their families by any means. When the whole family is dependent on one person, the option of irregular migration is portrayed as more of a necessity rather than a desire. According to Markus Schildhauer, head of the German Seafarers’ Centre in Alexandria, “a perceived 50% chance of surviving the trip over the Mediterranean is still tempting enough for people who have nothing to lose.”

To many, the grass only seems to be greener on the other side. To their shock, they are not only exploited and degraded during their journey as they are stranded in the middle of the sea with no access to basic life needs, but also after their arrival to Europe, where they are confronted with the complex reality of the irregular migrant status. It is not the paradise they had dreamt of. Jobs are not as abundant as they thought they were. Obtaining residency documents is a very difficult process and last but not least, they will probably live in the streets for several days, before earning a very low hourly wage in humiliating and degrading working conditions. This harsh reality remains a challenge for any irregular migrant; if they had known the result of taking such a long and deadly route, chances are s/he would have thought twice before getting on a boat and embarking on this perilous journey. According to an IOM Egypt case study conducted on Unaccompanied Minors (UMCs), in 2015, 1,711 out of 2,610 Egyptian migrants arriving irregularly in Italy were UMCs (66%) in comparison to only 28% in 2011. In 2016, a total of 4,230 Egyptian irregular migrants reached Italy of whom 2,467 were UMC (58 %) . The severe and worsening economic conditions over the past years have pushed many families to send their children to Europe hoping that they would be able to contribute to alleviating them from poverty. [2] Being the primary breadwinners of their families, many others make their own decision to leave while committing to paying the cost of crossing the Mediterranean to the smuggler once arrived; thus, becoming a victim of debt bondage. [3]

Exploring the different stories of irregular Egyptian migrants returning to their home country Egypt, we find that the main challenge they face is the unavailability of sustainable jobs that can ensure an adequate life for them and their families. Taking a deeper look at the geo-demography of Egypt, we find that irregular migration is widespread mainly in rural areas. [4] The proliferation of irregular migration comes as a direct consequence of the lack of access to sustainable livelihood opportunities in these marginalized areas over the past decades.

Two famous quotes IOM always hears from returning Egyptian migrants, “We are dead here and dead there, it does not really matter“ and “We saw death with our own eyes”. These two phrases sum up the horrific reality of any irregular migrant before, during and after the departure.

We are dead here…” clearly describes the harsh economic conditions, acting as major push factors for these people to risk their lives while crossing the Mediterranean. In 2015, poverty rates reached their highest in several decades with 26% living below the poverty line of 2$ per day. [5] The result for these poverty-stricken communities is to take what they imagine to be the easiest route for earning a decent life, by embarking on the fatal journey in search for a better future. Their situation is usually made worse after they attempt to cross the Mediterranean in worn-out boats; a journey which they describe in just a few words “We saw death with our own eyes”. Many people start regretting their choice. They are held in inflatable boats for more than 24 hours in the middle of sea with almost no access to basic life needs. According to the children interviewed for the IOM’s study, 59 % confirmed the scarce supply of water and food on boats, while more than 60 % reported having been subjected to physical mistreatment and 9 % witnessed the death of other migrants. Then, once they reach the European borders, they are usually held as prisoners in fishing boats by smugglers, not for a day or two, but up to a month in many cases. Due to the on-demand business of irregular trips to Europe, smugglers increase the number of migrants on the boats, hence elevating even more the risks of irregular sea migration and putting thousands of lives in danger.

The way these organized smugglers work is quite striking and worth studying. The smugglers can be considered as transnational actors with operations in different cities around the world. They are devious in the way they do business; they know exactly how to manipulate the minds of potential irregular migrants by offering different payment modalities, with the option of travelling to Europe without upfront payment. Most UMCs interviewed in the study confirmed that parents or relatives payed smugglers upon the arrival of their children to Europe. The desperation of youth living in marginalized areas are easily lured by these offers, undermining the high risk of the journey that has succeeded in killing thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. [6]

In conclusion, irregular migration needs to be addressed using a comprehensive and inclusive approach that not only works on raising the awareness of potential irregular migrants about the possible risks and dangers of the journey; but also, and most importantly, addresses the root causes of the problem through the provision of viable alternatives that would give reasons for the youth to stay. Such an approach should also include efforts to enhance the quality of life of marginalized areas through improving their access to basic needs, as well as to invest in their education and skill enhancement with the ultimate objective of improving their employability potential all the while creating sustainable livelihood opportunities.

Footnotes:

[1] 87% out of 1552 Egyptians interviewed confirmed their intention to travel to Europe. See ‘Egyptian Irregular Migration to Europe', Ayman Zohry (2007). Furthermore, 18% of Egyptians aged 15 to 29 had aspirations to migrate, See ‘Panel Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE) 2014’, Population Council (2014).

[2] 65 % of the interviewed children in the study confirmed that their parents paid for the smuggling services upon safe arrival to Europe, 15% of the children confirmed making arrangement to pay part of their salaries to the smuggling service upon working in Europe. Since they are minors not eligible to work, they are considered as victims of trafficking according to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) definition. See “Egyptian Unaccompanied Migrant Children: a case study on Irregular migration”, IOM (2016).

[3] Debt bondage – a person is held as collateral against a loan. The work of the bonded laborer is the means of repaying the loan. Since such laborer’s receive little or no pay, loan repayment is difficult, and his or her debt may even be inherited by the next generation. See OHCHR

[4] IOM conducted an Impact Evaluation on the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) Programme and found that 62% of returnees selected from the sample originated from rural areas across different governorates in Egypt.

[5] According to Egypt’s CAPMAS ( the Central agency for Public Mobilization and statistics),the average annual income of persons in poverty line is 5800 EGP rounding to nearly 1$/day.

[6] The estimated number of death in 2017 across the Mediterranean sea was 2,416 migrant deaths.

Posted on: 2017/8/24 04:26

Twenty-three year old Mable Allotey* is a proud mother of three girls: a four-year old and six-month old twin girls, who returned to Ghana from Egypt. While Mable’s story ends beautifully, it did not start this way.

Twenty-three year old Mable Allotey* is a proud mother of three girls: a four-year old and six-month old twin girls, who returned to Ghana from Egypt. While Mable’s story ends beautifully, it did not start this way.

In 2011, after the birth of her first child, Mable’s partner migrated to Egypt in search of better opportunities to provide a better life for Mable and their baby girl. After two years apart he invited her to join him in Egypt.

Mable signed a contract through a recruitment agency but, when she arrived in Egypt and started working, a significant share out of her little earnings went towards paying back the agent. She was left with barely enough to survive.

In just over a year, Mable was pregnant again. She managed to continue working four months into her pregnancy, before she had to stop due to medical complications. Mable and her partner were struggling to make ends meet, since he also did not have a secure job. However, Mable heard of IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme from a friend and voluntarily decided to return home to Ghana.

She enrolled in the AVRR programme after contacting IOM Egypt and travelled back home in November 2015. IOM took care of all her pre-departure and travel procedure. She was seven months pregnant at the time of her return and unable to work. At the beginning things were not easy for Mable as her mother was also not working and she was caring for her four-year-old girl, who was already going to school.

While her business was still in its inception phase, her delivery date was approaching. She was unable to support her family nor take care of her business. IOM provided her with additional money to cover hospital bills, school fees and food costs needed to sustain her family for up to four months after having given birth.

IOM visited Mable several months later. She was doing well with her two newborn daughters, and her business was beginning to flourish.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the beneficiary

Posted on: 2017/8/10 12:18

Baby Ayla was stranded in Egypt after her mother's life came to an unexpected end.

Tragedy leaves very little room for any silver linings, but every once in a while, in the wake of a disaster, hope and life are born. Ayla Camile’s story is one such example.

Ayla’s mother was a Filipina domestic worker in Cairo, whose life came to an unexpected end due to severe medical complications. With her only guardian and caregiver gone, Ayla, an infant, was left utterly alone in a foreign land. Thus began the journey of Ayla’s return to the Philippines. After having received the case, the Embassy of the Philippines joined forces with the United States State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) project named “NOAH III,” which provides direct assistance to victims of trafficking and other vulnerable migrants, including unaccompanied migrant children, in Egypt, Sudan and Libya. The remains of Ayla’s mother were returned to the Philippines.

Gears were set in motion and the dynamic partnership between the Embassy and the IOM Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) services meant swift strides in the journey of Ayla’s return home. From IOM pre-departure medical screening, to providing baby Ayla and her embassy staff escort’s return tickets and essential items like pampers and baby milk, the process was a long but prompt one. On the chilly morning of the 10th February, 2016 Ayla Camile was returned to her the arms of her kin, with nothing but an air of innocence and a slight cough and runny nose, for which IOM accompanied her to the doctor.

Today, Ayla is a happy, healthy baby growing at her Manilla home, in the warmth of her grandmother’s love.

Posted on: 2017/7/17 01:28

Fathy was able to create a prosperous future for both him and his family.

Fathy is among 180,000 individuals arriving to the Greek border in 2016 in search of a more prosperous future. He considers himself to be one of the lucky people who not only survived such a traumatizing experience but also became a living example for many Egyptians who believe that irregular migration puts an end to all financial issues. With five sons and more than ten grandsons, Fathy left Egypt after failing to find a stable job.

With the help of a friend, Fathy had to pay more than $1500 to take an irregular route to Greece in hopes of having a better life that would guarantee a decent educational future for his grandsons. To his surprise, life on the other side of the Mediterranean was much more difficult than he had originally anticipated. Fathy ended up staying for several months in Greece without finding a job and life became increasingly more difficult without any family or friends.

Fathy had originally embarked on this journey for his grandchildren but with time he came to the realization of the importance of being by their side. With the dire economic situation and lack of any emotional support, Fathy found it very difficult to continue living in Greece and wanted to return to Egypt. Several friends referred Fathy to the IOM office in Greece, where he entered the screening process. Thankfully, Fathy successfully earned a reintegration grant that not only allowed him to return to Egypt but also assisted him financially. This allowed him to reopen his butcher shop and buy two camels that tremendously improved the shop operations, improving the family situation.

Despite the few job opportunities in his home country, Fathy was able to create a prosperous future for both him and his family. Today, his shop is functioning better than ever despite the high degree of competition around him. Additionally, his sons helped him in selling the two camels in the course of month and buying two more camels and a goat.

Posted on: 2017/7/03 08:36

Fatima* is a Sudanese woman, who is the breadwinner of her whole family, including the sick mother and younger siblings. Unable to find a suitable job at home, she decided to migrate to Egypt.

Once Fatima voluntarily expressed interest to return to Sudan, IOM presented her with the option of Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration.

“IOM assisted me in Egypt and back in Sudan, Thank you all”

Fatima* is a Sudanese woman, who is the breadwinner of her whole family, including the sick mother and younger siblings. Unable to find a suitable job at home, she decided to migrate to Egypt.

After working for some time, she became unemployed and approached IOM for assistance. Initially, IOM provided her with assistance to meet basic needs for four months under the Direct Assistance Programme.

Once Fatima voluntarily expressed interest to return to Sudan, IOM presented her with the option of Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration. IOM assessed her eligibility to benefit from the programme and took care of the entire process of her return. Moreover, IOM offered reintegration assistance to help her to restart the life in Sudan and meet the needs of her family.

Upon her return, Fatima met with IOM Sudan and used the offered assistance to purchase fabrics for making curtains and bedsheets. Then she sold the final textile products in her small village. In addition, IOM provided extra assistance to Fatima in order to cover two months’ rent for the entire family, allowing her to settle and start generating income from the new business to support her family.

IOM is still in touch with Fatima and her business is doing well.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the beneficiary

Posted on: 2016/11/29 01:00

We all know that timeless saying: “Old is gold”. This was quite literally the case for Mr. Beshoi Abdallah, whose old fortune lied in the gold markets of Egypt until the year of 2011. His family had been in the gold trading business for several decades, but as luck would have it, the family-run store was broken into and robbed in the aftermath of the January 25th revolution.

Cracking underneath the strain of a worsening economic situation and the deterioration of his mother’s health condition, Mr. Beshoi and his family decided to leave Egypt and head out in search of a second chance to eke out a better standard of living for themselves

We all know that timeless saying: “Old is gold”. This was quite literally the case for Mr. Beshoi Abdallah, whose old fortune lied in the gold markets of Egypt until the year of 2011. His family had been in the gold trading business for several decades, but as luck would have it, the family-run store was broken into and robbed in the aftermath of the January 25th revolution.

Cracking underneath the strain of a worsening economic situation and the deterioration of his mother’s health condition, Mr. Beshoi and his family decided to leave Egypt and head out in search of a second chance to eke out a better standard of living for themselves. In 2013, Mr. Beshoi and his mother flew into Europe’s fields of blooming color, the Netherlands, where Mr. Beshoi was able to secure a job as a construction worker. However, they soon discovered that living in the Netherlands was nothing like they had expected. The living expenses far exceeded the income Mr. Beshoi was making from his job in the construction field, and once again, he found himself underneath a mounting pressure of debt and bills that he needed to cover by the end of each month.

After struggling to make ends meet for almost one year in the Netherlands, Mr. Beshoi decided to contact IOM and apply for an AVRR grant that would allow him to return to his home country with confidence. Under the auspices of IOM Hague, he was provided with in-kind assistance amounting up to 1,500 Euros.

Several years after the family’s return to Cairo, IOM conducted a short interview with Mr. Beshoi to follow up on the results of the AVRR grant. He said that “Without IOM’s valuable assistance, I would not have taken the decision to return and remain in Egypt.” The grant gave him a chance to shift his career from construction to transportation. He currently owns a taxi and says he is very happy to have been able to restart his life back home.

Posted on: 2016/11/01 10:56

Barikisu's story is a unique and striking. Her migration story highlights the importance of persevering in adversity. Perseverance. It is the fuel that drives the human engine beyond all seemingly insurmountable ordeals in life. It is the state of continuing to exist in spite of all the difficult circumstances we may encounter on our journey in and out of this world. As human beings, our ability to persevere defines our capacity to positively impact our future, and nowhere is this philosophy more evident than in the individual stories of migrants, who have been able to transform their grim present into a promising future.

This is the story of Barikisu; a woman who hails from the Upper West region of Ghana. She had initially set out to start a family, but after the father of her child refused to marry her, Barikisu found herself struggling to make ends meet. Her elder sister had returned from Egypt to Ghana for a holiday and encouraged her to issue a passport claiming that she had a medical condition requiring treatment. Facing economic pressures, Barikisu accepted this offer and decided to spend all her money in order to buy herself out of Ghana. She used her life savings to pay for the visa and plane ticket.

Perseverance. It is the fuel that drives the human engine beyond all seemingly insurmountable ordeals in life. It is the state of continuing to exist in spite of all the difficult circumstances we may encounter on our journey in and out of this world. As human beings, our ability to persevere defines our capacity to positively impact our future, and nowhere is this philosophy more evident than in the individual stories of migrants, who have been able to transform their grim present into a promising future.

This is the story of Barikisu; a woman who hails from the Upper West region of Ghana. She had initially set out to start a family, but after the father of her child refused to marry her, Barikisu found herself struggling to make ends meet. Her elder sister had returned from Egypt to Ghana for a holiday and encouraged her to issue a passport claiming that she had a medical condition requiring treatment. Facing economic pressures, Barikisu accepted this offer and decided to spend all her money in order to buy herself out of Ghana. She used her life savings to pay for the visa and plane ticket.

Upon arriving in Egypt, Barikisu was employed as a housekeeper and baby sitter, but her employers soon found out about the falsified illness listed on her passport and decided to lay her off. Once again, Barikisu found herself stranded in an unfamiliar country with absolutely no means of support. She struggled to land herself a stable job and whatever little income she made out of seasonal employment went into her sister’s pockets instead of her own. After three years of endless turmoil and oppression, Barikisu became hell-bent on returning to Ghana. She was well aware of the dire financial situation which hindered her return, but had recently heard about IOM and decided to reach out for assistance.

IOM concluded that Barikisu qualified for assistance and immediately started arranging for her return to Ghana. IOM also provided her with in-kind assistance in order to start her micro-business back home. Since she already had some experience with trade, Barikisu chose to continue in the same field. Her siblings helped her furnish her old store and Barikisu used the IOM in-kind assistance to buy and transport groceries from Accra to her village. She is performing very well and already has plans for expansion. Barikisu has increased her level of stock and borrowed a loan from a local group in order to buy a deep freezer for more storage. Not only has she been able to break even, but she has also started making profit. As a result, Barikisu can now support her daughter’s education and give her siblings a helping hand. “My life has improved and the impact I have on my community is great. I serve them with a variety of groceries right at their doorstep,” she said. She also stated that the general public admire her because of her relationship with them and her dedication towards her business.

She noted that the IOM assistance was an eye-opener for her and confirmed that it had definitely strengthened her economic situation. Her word of advice to the Ghanaian community in Egypt is that “they should come back with a plan of action and their situation will surely improve.”

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 .