Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

The Smart Way

A Migrant’s Journey to Success

Smart at IOM’s transit centre in Niamey in October 2016. Credit: Monica Chiriac/IOM

Apr 4 2018 - Smart has come a long way since he first arrived at IOM’s transit centre in Niamey, Niger, back in October 2016. He looked tired and defeated, but happy to be alive and eager to be with his family again.

Only a few years back, he had graduated with a diploma in banking and finance, but finding a job in his field had proved to be an impossible task. He had started teaching IT, but that was not enough to provide for himself and his five siblings.

Just like countless other West and Central African migrants, he then decided that maybe his luck would change if he made it to Europe. He tried going through legal channels but when his visa request got rejected, he took it upon himself to find another way to attain his goals.

Read his full story here as shared from IOM’s transit centre in Niamey back in 2016.

“This route is deadly. I wouldn’t take it again. I said to myself that my life was more precious than Italy.”

Watch Smart’s story.

Smart came up with his idea of a waste management business before even trying his luck for Europe. He had seen how much dirt and garbage was accumulating on the streets of Freetown, Sierra Leone and how this had an impact on the health of the community. He wanted to make a change, but he didn’t have the means to do so.

Support for the reintegration of migrants returning to their countries of origin is essential to address their economic needs and foster their inclusion in their home communities. A returning migrant may be assisted to set up individual or collective projects with other returnees as well as community-based projects to fit the needs of their communities.

The group has received five tricycles through the project that they use for their daily activities. Photo: Aichatou Hassane/IOM

During his time at IOM’s transit centre in Agadez, Smart grouped together with other returnees and brainstormed what their project would look like. Once back in Sierra Leone, with IOM’s support, they put their ideas into practice and created the Youth Aid Waste Management business. They all believe in their project and support each other through the small hiccups.

The members of Youth Aid Waste Management proudly pose in front of their new office in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photo: Aichatou Hassane/IOM

“I want to see this business grow, but more than anything, I want to create job opportunities for the youth in Sierra Leone.”

Collective projects often create a sense of belonging among the members, and by having a common goal and interest, they increase their chances of success. Smart has not only employed 14 fellow returnees, but also five additional youth community members who now rely on the project’s success for their daily bread.

The members also raise awareness about the dangers of the route among their communities, and in exchange, “the community is proud of us and of what we are doing. We feel no shame in coming back,” says Smart with a smile.

Smart works side by side with 14 other returnees and five community members. Photo: Aichatou Hassane/IOM

Smart’s project came to life through the EU-IOM Joint initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. All migrants assisted by IOM with voluntary return from Niger are eligible for the reintegration programme under the Joint initiative.

Close to 6,000 beneficiaries were assisted by IOM Niger last year through community micro-projects in Guinea-Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Senegal and Mali while more than 600 benefitted from individual reintegration assistance.

Monitoring the procedures and activities of local actors contracted to provide services within the programmes is ensured on a regular basis.

Smart and his group proudly posing with one of their tricycles. Photo: Aichatou Hassane/IOM

This story was posted by Monica Chiriac, public information officer at IOM Niger.

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