My name is Mehdi, I’m a 41-year-old mechanic and have been working on cars since I was a child so early on I decided to try to make a living off it. Unfortunately, for me, working as a mechanic was never enough to pay the bills. 14 years ago as a young man expecting more from life and having big dreams and hopes, I dreamt of moving to a place where I could live and pursue my dreams.
It is at that time that I decided to leave Iran hoping to get to Europe by any means, even if this trip led me to routes operated by smugglers, passing through Turkey and Greece.
As an undocumented migrant, I wasn’t able to get a work permit nor considered a legal resident, which would allow me to take part in social security or get a place of my own. I eventually managed to find a job in a local Greek carpet store but with drastically lower working conditions and a salary that was considerably lower than the common wages.
I decided to try my luck elsewhere as I needed to find a better solution quickly. After a while I somehow found myself in Belgium. As I had heard whispers that living in Belgium was easier for migrants, I decided to give it a try. After some time in the country, I learned that getting a work permit or permanent resident visa would take a lot of time and was costly. I started to work as a mechanic in a local workshop, but due to work permit issues, I was again underpaid for the work I’d been doing.
Years passed without any signs of changing my situation, which was very dissapointing and made me feel homesick. I felt like I’d hit a brick wall and thought back on all those years I could have spent with my family, especially so when I was informed of my father’s passing.
The loss of my father got me thinking that maybe it was time to return even though I’d gotten used to the living conditions and low wages. When some time later I got arrested as an undocumented worker, I became more convinced of my plans to start a new phase in life and and return home.
During the 13 years I lived in Europe, I had heard of IOM through friends and official services, and due to the lack of residency in Belgium, I saw Voluntary Return and asisstance for reintegration as my best option.
To my surprise and after all the hardships endured, early 2015, I finally came across the Fedasil Return Desk and applied for voluntary return and reintegration assistance. The return counsellors at Fedasil and the reintegration counsellors at IOM not only helped me in every possible way but also made me feel safe and hopeful for my future back in Iran. Reunited with my family taken some time to get settled in again, I now restarted my car repair business in partnership with a friend in my home town. As we recently started the business, we will need some time to grow more and expand our activities, but at this point I’m feeling confident that returning was the right choice for me.
Pejvaque was only eighteen when he first arrived in Belgium. He had quit school and left his country, Iran, to do something with his life.
Pejvaque: “It was a snap decision, with no real information on migration and its rules. I was just young and hasty to achieve success”.
After arriving in Belgium he realised just how difficult the coming years would be. For two years he waiting for his asylum approval, two years without any result. Pejvaque remembers those days as being ‘unbearable’. He missed his family enormously. Adding to that, the life in Europe in general and Belgium in particular was completely different than what he had expected. He did not speak one of the languages, he was not entitled to a work permit and the money he had saved to come to Europe was running out as he had to use it to pay all his living expenses. Finally, he realised that Belgium was not what he wanted, he just wanted to go home.
“I approached IOM after hearing from other migrants how IOM helps stranded migrants to get back home and assists them with to reintegration into their own society. Quickly we arranged a meeting and I was able to explain them my story. They then assisted me in the different stages of my return home.”
While he was still in Belgium, Pejvaque had no idea what he would want to do once he got back to Iran. One of his main ideas was to resume his education and consequently create new opportunities for himself. Once back, he was welcomed warmly by his family. His migration experience however inspired him to set new priorities for himself: his family and a job. Realizing that he had no solid educational background nor work experience, he decided to go to an adult high school for one year and chose ICT as a major. IOM paid for his tuition accordingly. Now, eighteen months after his return, he finished his classes and works in a fast-food shop as cashier. The salary isn’t much but he’s satisfied because it is his first job and for now he lives with his parents in a rented flat. He’s really happy to be reunited with his family, he currently has an income allowing him to provide for himself and has some new goals for the future: “I would like to further improve my proficiency in computer skills in order to apply for better jobs. I will take some time to learn but I’m sure it will prove very useful on the labour market.”