Story
05 Sep 2016
By: IOM Belgium

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 disappointing 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 sometime later I got arrested as an undocumented worker, I became more convinced of my plans to start a new phase in life and return home.

During the 13 years that I've 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 assistance 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 took some time to get settled in again, I now restarted my car repair business in partnership with a friend in my hometown. 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.

SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities