"We always learn a valuable lesson whether we go through a good or bad experience."

In 2019, Girgis Mustafa, 54, migrated to Egypt with the hopes of securing a better job to feed his large family. As the sole bread winner for his family of seven, he worked several jobs to make ends meet, but they were all in vain. Eventually, he felt forced to leave his family behind in Sudan and search of a better future.

Once in Egypt, Girgis started suffering from severe backaches that affected his physical movement and ability to work. He could not get any jobs. After months of trying, he was still unable to earn an income nor pay for his medical expenses; he decided he needed to return to Sudan.

“I was devastated, jobless, and unable to provide for my family that was depending on me. I was also sick in a foreign country without a way to pay for my increasing hospital bills,” said Girgis. “My mind was always consumed by thoughts of my suffering and hard luck.”   

The Sudanese community in Cairo referred Girgis to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programming, to return home. He applied for the AVRR assistance that is provided through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative (EU-IOM JI) for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa. Upon selection, IOM covered all Girgis’ medical expenses and in May 2021, he was assisted to return to Sudan through the EU-IOM JI programme.

Girgis was able to re-establish his life through the cash grant provided as part of the programme, meeting his and his family’s needs.

"After it all, I was able to reunite with my family. When I look back, my experience in Libya felt as if I was in a graveyard of dead dreams,” he said.

Girgis used the tailored reintegration grant to start two micro-businesses: livestock and handmade stoves. The stoves are commonly used in most Sudanese households.

"My customers are happy with the quality and durability of my handmade stoves. When I first started, I sold about six stoves a month” Girgis explained.

Girgis started his livestock business with four sheep and currently has a large flock that enables him to sell wool to yarn manufacturers. He involves some of his family members in running his business. The busiest times for him are Eid al-Adha and special occasions like weddings. Eid al-Adha is the second and the larger of the two main holidays celebrated in Islam, which includes the sacrifice of livestock, usually sheep.

"My two sons help me tend to the sheep, keeping them healthy and clean, until they are ready to be sold," he said.

The programme builds the capacity of returnees to enhance their business knowledge and skills. The success of Girgis’ enterprises can be attributed to his participation in the entrepreneurship and business management training that the programme provided him with.

After the training, Girgis and 22 other returnees formed a social media group to support and market each other's businesses, increasing their sales and profits within their circles.

One and a half years since his return, Girgis’s life and that of his family has changed.

"Along with IOM’s support, we as returnees must work hard to achieve our ambitions, because as the saying says, it takes two stones to start a fire.

Under the EU-IOM JI, over 5,500 migrants have been assisted to safely return to Sudan since 2017 to date, with 13 per cent returning from Egypt.


Written by Fathia AMIN, IOM Sudan, fatamin@iom.int 

For more information, please contact:

Linda ONIAS, IOM Sudan, lonias@iom.int 

Muthoni Annie NJENGA, IOM Regional Office Nairobi, mnjenga@iom.int

For more information on the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, visit: www.migrationjointinitiative.org/