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A new business opportunity: selling ice cream in the parks of Baghdad

Business case form completed by young Iraqi returnee for using reintegration support ©
Young Iraqi Mahmud, arrived in Finland as an asylum seeker in 2015. Two years later he got a negative decision on his asylum claim. At the reception center, he was told about a voluntary return programme and Mahmud decided to look into about the possibilities of return.

An employee at the Reception Center told him that through the support he could set up a business in his home country. In 2017, the amount of this in-kind support was €1.500 in Finland. At the beginning of 2019, this assistance was increased to €5.000 euros for those returning to Iraq.

A bright idea was born in the young asylum seeker’s mind, and he knew what he could to continue his life. Mahmud had some experience already in selling ice cream. He wanted to take advantage of that experience in setting up a business. Through the funding of the voluntary return programme, he was able to buy an ice cream machine.


The return procedures and other related measures were first taken care of in Finland at the reception centre. The information was sent to the local service provider – European Technology and Training Center (ETTC) – before returning to Iraq. Mahmud received the first part of the support in Finland and the rest once he arrive back home in Iraq.

The whole process, from Mahmud applied for voluntary return until being in Iraq with his new company, took a couple of months. In general, the process can take from one month to a few months. Since then, Mahmud’s ice cream has brought many smiles to the families in the parks under the burning sun of Baghdad.

During Mahmud’s return, the Finnish Immigration Service cooperated with the local service provider, ETTC, through the European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) programme. ETTC offers return and reintegration services as well as consultations to returnees from European countries to Iraq. ERRIN is a grouping of migration authorities from 15 European countries that facilitates cooperation with organisations involved in return.

This story has been reproduced courtesy of the Finnish Immigration Service (

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