Egypt – While returning migrants usually confront significant obstacles in reestablishing their lives, Fatima has taken the challenge in her stride.
“I took one step at a time, but I always had the mindset of trying and succeeding for my daughters,” she said.
The 49-year-old can now look back and take pride in having turned her life around.
When her husband remarried, Fatima became the main breadwinner to her four daughters. Motivated by the desire to secure a better future for them, she migrated to Egypt in 2017, taking the two youngest ones with her.
“Leaving my two older daughters behind was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make,” explained Fatima.
She barely managed to survive on short-term jobs as most employers would not hire her because of her age. “They told me I was too old and unfit and when my daughter, who was 17 at the time, applied for jobs, they told her she was too young,” said Fatima.
Before the onset of COVID-19, migrants in Egypt and elsewhere were already vulnerable. This worsened after the pandemic, even for Fatima and her daughters who struggled to make ends meet.
“We suffered even more and there was no one to help us,” Fatima recalled.
The most viable option for them was to return to Sudan. Through the Sudanese community in Egypt Fatima learnt about the International Organization for Migration’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme and immediately made contact.
On the 11th of June 2021, IOM arranged for Fatima and other Sudanese nationals stranded in Egypt to return. This was facilitated through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (the EU-IOM Joint Initiative).
Seventeen days after arriving in Sudan, Fatima was among those who received economic reintegration assistance and was registered for National Health Insurance (NHI) that also covered her two daughters, both of whom were supported to pursue their education.
Sudanese nationals assisted to return under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative first undergo a vulnerability assessment and are also signed up for NHI. Based on their vulnerabilities identified and unique needs, the returnees are provided with tailored reintegration support which may include assistance to establish a micro-business or to enroll in a vocational training programme, psychosocial counseling and business skills training to name a few. The EU-IOM Joint Initiative also covers education costs for child returnees.
Fatima had set her sights on establishing a utensils trading business.
"It took less than a month for me to receive assistance, which made me even more determined to start a business of my own," she said. “I purchased some household utensils to sell to the women in my community.”
So far in 2021, about 300 returnees in Sudan have received reintegration assistance under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative. Fatima is among the success stories. "My business is going well, and I can now provide for my daughters," she said.
One of them, Ayat, chipped in: "No matter what hurdles she faced, my mother never gave up; she is a role model for me and my sisters."
About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative
Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.