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Return and reintegration in times of COVID-19 | “I am happy to be back”

A returnee in Kurdistan
Dilkash returned to Kurdistan in June 2019. He shares his experience to help other people make informed decisions about their future © ETTC

Despite obvious challenges linked to the coronavirus pandemic, that also have affected Dilkash’s reintegration journey, the returnee says that the most precious thing about being back to Kurdistan after almost two years spent in Greece is reuniting with his family.

Dilkash’s stable life as a taxi driver in Kurdistan got interrupted by sudden news about his father’s illness. Determined to provide his father with the best cancer treatment possible in Turkey, the man sold his house and borrowed money from friends and relatives. Soon after, he started receiving urgent requests for repayment. Facing a bad economic situation in the region and accumulating debts, Dilkash decided to set off on a treacherous journey to Europe in search for better job opportunities.

Dilkash travelled with his wife and three children. The family was aiming at reaching Austria or Germany, but their journey ended already in Greece. After flying to Istanbul, they boarded a small boat crossing the Aegean Sea, witnessing people drowning on the way. After a month in a closed reception centre in Greece, the family moved to the camp near Thessaloniki, and further on, to Volos. Dilkash recalls that they had a hard time accommodating in the camp environment, as their small children were not coping well with the situation. He also did not have a chance to work. This is when bad news from home arrived – Dilkash’s father had reached a terminal state and wanted to see him once again. He passed away six days before his son managed to make it back to Kurdistan in June 2019.

 

The returnee in front of his store in Kurdistan established with ERRIN reintegration support.
The returnee in front of his store established with ERRIN reintegration support © EETC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to their departure from Athens, the family did not know about the existence of the ERRIN programme. “When we came back, we went to many organisations asking for help, but they did not do anything for us. But a year after we came back, EETC found us,” recalls the returnee.

With the support from ERRIN, Dilkash opened a mini market in his native area of Atrush. He says that thanks to the business, he now has a monthly income of 500 USD; the reintegration grant also allowed him to furnish the new place he rented for his family. “Me, my children and my wife would really like to thank ERRIN,” he says and adds: “I am happy to be back and be with my mother again. Everything on our migration journey was so bad I will never think about going away again. Just think about it, when we travelled, my little daughter was only 6 months old. One day in Turkey, we had to walk for 7 hours, her milk bottle had gotten lost and she was crying all this time. We had nothing to feed her. She was cold, so I gave all my clothes to keep her warm. We really saw everything on the way and I hope to never face it again.”

 

A returnee in his store in Kurdistan.
“I am happy to be back and be with my mother again,” says Dilkash © ETTC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the coronavirus measures in Kurdistan did have an impact on Dilkash’s business, he says that his financial situation is still much better to what it used to be. He slowly pays back the loans and provides for his family. “Look at me,” he laughs, “I am only 30 but my face shows I am much older cause of everything we have been through!”

Dilkash says he wants to share his experience, as he believes it can help other people make informed decisions about their future. Thanks to his advice, two of his friends have already returned from Europe. “If it was in my hands, I would never let anyone leave Kurdistan,” he says. “I would not let people go as things on the way can turn real bad.”

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