“Come back to Italy with me.”
Mr. Yousry Dabour first thought it was a joke when his friend, who was on vacation in Egypt, asked him to travel to Europe with him. A passionate, hardworking man who had lived his whole life in Egypt, Mr. Dabour was fascinated with the idea of travel but unsure whether it was a real possibility. Leaving his home was not Mr. Dabour’s first choice, but he believed that Europe held financial possibilities that could alleviate the financial strain on his family. So, in 2006, Mr. Dabour began his journey to Pisa, Italy hoping to find prosperity.
He started his journey in the coastal city Marsa Matrouh, Egypt, then traveling via Libya to Italy. It was a journey that would stay with Mr. Dabour forever. “Although the trip was more than 10 years ago, I still remember every bit of it. [A] journey that puts you in a near death experience [can] never be forgotten.” Mr. Dabour recollected, “We stayed in an inflatable boat for more than 28 hours in the middle of the dark sea, until we were stopped by the Italian authorities who transferred us to the island of Lampedusa.” At this point, Mr. Dabour registered himself with the Italian authorities and was then sent to Sicily, where he stayed in a reception centre for over a month. After a month he set out to pursue the financial success that had brought him to Italy.
Mr. Dabour made his way through Italy for six months before happening upon the very friend who had given him the idea to come to Italy in the first place. This friend offered him a place to stay and found Mr. Dabour a job at a local factory. Despite this show of kindness, when it came time to receive his paycheck, Mr. Dabour’s acquaintance refused to pay him his salary. It was at this point that Mr. Dabour met Paola, an Italian woman who offered him true friendship and assistance. She invited him to her house, and advised him on the legal processes of finding a job and settling his residency paper. In 2011 he finally earned his permanent residency in Italy. Paola helped Mr. Dabour find a job, and without her help he would not have been able to secure his residency, or a position in Italy.
However, economic struggles afflicted Mr. Dabour again some years later, and he found himself once again without home or employment. Living in the streets and unable to stay and work or to return to his home in Egypt on his own, Mr. Dabour decided to use the resources available to him in Italy. He sought out the International Organization for Migration (IOM), whom he had heard offered assistance to people in similar circumstances. He was referred to the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) team, where he was awarded a reintegration grant of 1600 EUR to be used in an income generating activity back in Egypt. Mr. Dabour began the journey back to Egypt, grateful for his time in Italy, and eager for the land he calls home.