Before leaving Duhok, Kurdistan, Adil was making a living by selling household essentials and as he tells us, “his life was fine.” But facing an unstable economic situation in the country, the man decided to seek other opportunities: “I wanted to see Europe and experience the life there,” he admits. “Some friends and relatives who had made it to the continent told me that Europe offered a better quality of life.”
Hardships of the journey
Adil says that he was well aware he would face many hardships on the way – he was travelling with his three children and a pregnant wife. Selling his shop and household items made Adil gather all the money needed for the journey: “We took a bus from Kurdistan to Turkey. Then we walked, sometimes over eight hours a day, until we reached Thessaloniki. I payed over 18,000 dollars for us to get there.”
First in Lagadika, then in a refugee camp “Mozas” in Volos, the family spent almost half a year in Greece. “I tried to find a job, but there were no opportunities. The economic situation in Greece was bad. At some point, I just realised we could not make a life in Greece,” Adil recalls.
With the return assisted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the family came back to Kurdistan in June 2019, warmly welcomed by their relatives: “My parents were not very supportive of the idea of us going away in the first place; they kept on saying that no parents should be away from their children.”
“ERRIN found me”
The first year back in Kurdistan was not the easiest, as Adil remained jobless, despite his continuous efforts to find work. Things got worse when the world came to standstill with the coronavirus pandemic.
“I did not know about the ERRIN programme, I was looking for other ways to find support.” As ETTC got informed about a group of returnees from Greece, the organsation actively reached out to Adil in June 2020. “We managed to finalise the procedure swiftly the very last minute, as returnees are only eligible to benefit from the programme within a one-year time period upon their return,” explain the ETTC staff.
Adil eagerly got back to work, re-opening his original furniture shop. ETTC helped him to equip the store, purchase the stock and pay three months of rent in advance. The rest of the in-kind assistance was used to furnish his children’s rooms.
“The shop is always open, from 10 a.m. till 11 p.m. – but because of the coronavirus there is little demand. People do not come to the market as much as they did before, less people buy furniture and household items,” says Adil. “For the future, I just hope my family to be happy and my financial situation to be stable.”
However challenging it is to run a business in times of the pandemic, Adil remains optimistic and puts all his efforts into the business. When asked about the most important thing that came with his return, he smiles saying that it was getting in touch with ETTC which restored his faith in the future: “It was really like a ray of light and good news.”
The reintegration journey of Adil was enabled by the European and Development Programs Division (EDPD), the Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection, within the framework of ERRIN AP2016 project.