• Rafal Abdulateef | Senior Public Information Assistant

I have loved German cars for as long as I can remember. During a time of unrest and fragile peace, to me, they symbolized strength and durability. In 1989, I bought my dream car: a Mercedes 300SE. It was the perfect shade of brown. I still think of that car. 

Even as a child, growing up in Najaf, I was near cars. In middle school, I worked in a scrap yard selling spare parts and repairing old cars. As I got older, I got the opportunity to learn more about repairing and maintaining German cars in a workshop. It was a mix of theoretical studying and practical applications. It was difficult, but enjoyable. Life was simple back then. I read a lot and dreamt of doing something important for my country.

In 2015, when Mustafa was only 13 years old, we tried to migrate to Germany irregularly. I sold my car to finance the trip. It was an arduous eight-day journey through Turkey, Greece and Hungary; we nearly drowned once and narrowly escaped gunfire. We paid a substantial fee to an agent who smuggled us across the various borders. It was a traumatic experience, and I will never put my son and myself through these dangers again. It was the wrong choice.

Even though we arrived in Germany, and I lived there for five years while waiting for my residency permit, my heart was still in Iraq. I missed the simple and pleasant atmosphere of my country, our large gatherings and social events. In 2020, I came back home to Baghdad, empty-handed. It was disappointing as I had lost a lot of money and left Mustafa behind. I was not in the best of spirits.

Then, I saw an advertisement offering free help to returnees at the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in Baghdad, under the Ministry of Migration and Displaced. The office provides referrals for reintegration services, and based on my situation, the caseworker recommended sessions for mental health and psychosocial support under a local NGO named Jiyan Foundation. It was a straightforward process and only required some basic information to be registered.

There were many people like me in the sessions, also struggling to rebuild a life in Iraq after the bitter disappointment of returning from Europe. Through the sessions, we shared our experiences and found many similarities. I was not alone.

It took a few sessions for my bitterness to dissolve and look at the brighter side of life, but I became hopeful. This is not the end – it will take time and more resources, but one day I will open my own workshop.”

Mohammed, 67, is an Iraqi returnee from Germany to Baghdad, supported by Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displaced through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in Baghdad.

IOM has strengthened capacities of the system and since November 2022, hundreds of returnees like Mohammed have visited NRM office in Baghdad to register and avail referrals for reintegration services, such as housing, education, employment, livelihoods, legal assistance, civil documentation, mental health and psychological support.

Have you just returned to Iraq? Rebuilding your life in Iraq can be a difficult process, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Visit the Ministry of Migration and Displaced office in Baghdad on Karadat Maryam Street;

Or dial: 07718650121, 07723222031, 07717751008

These services are confidential and free to all Iraqi returnees.

To read the story in Arabic, please click here to learn about Muhammad's journey.


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