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"Many people return to their home countries when there is a crisis"

Sahar Aly runs the advice center in Egypt.

Sahar Aly heads the new Egyptian-German Center for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (EGC), which opened in Cairo at the beginning of November. During a conversation she talks about what the center does – and why she has high hopes for it.

Ms Aly, what exactly does the new center do?
We empower people to find better job opportunities, and thus to earn an adequate and sustainable income. This could be a permanent job or it could mean starting a small business. We also help Egyptians returning from Germany and other countries to reintegrate here, both socially and economically. And finally we provide advice on how to migrate via the correct channels and the dangers involved in illegal migration. Our main target group is young people, but our services aren't exclusively aimed at them.

What services do you provide?
We provide a wide range of services, including organising various training events and group training sessions. These include funding employability sessions and career guidance courses, coaching in how to fill in job applications, as well as training courses in social skills or starting a business. But we also advise people individually to explore what opportunities and options are available to them. Our discussions are open-ended – we try to provide advice in such a way that each participant finds the path that is best for them.

Did you have to alter your plans due to the corona pandemic?
Not a great deal in terms of content, the service we provide has hardly changed at all. We did have to make some organisational changes, and before opening we developed a hygiene strategy that meets both GIZ specifications and Egyptian regulations. At the moment only 10 people can attend our training courses instead of the 20 we originally planned. Everyone is given a face mask when entering the building, and a pen that nobody else may use. We've installed disinfectant dispensers everywhere, and perspex panels in the rooms for individual consultations. We also use a contactless thermometer to measure the temperature of all our visitors to make sure they don't have a fever.

So does that mean you can't train as many people as planned?
That's right, the number of participants per training session had to be reduced. And we can't initially offer events in other parts of the country as originally intended. Although we're currently preparing digital services to try and compensate for that. Where possible, we first of all show people how Skype and similar programs work, how to open an account, and so on. Many of the people we advise are unfamiliar with this kind of thing. So we're creating the basis for digital services and can offer our courses online.

What kind of demand do you expect? Who will come to you?
In urban areas we expect more women, but it's more likely to be men in rural areas. When it comes to migration, however, we assume it will be mostly men who seek our advice. Of course we can't be certain about that yet. We'll see how demand develops and adapt our services accordingly. I imagine that the interest could be even greater than expected – despite the corona pandemic – because lots of people are being forced into seeking new opportunities.

What about when it comes to returnees?
We expect to have more enquiries from returnees as well. Many people return to their home countries when there is a crisis. Things like family and social cohesion suddenly become more important.

As of: 10/2020

Our discussions are open-ended – we try to provide advice in such a way that each participant finds the path that is best for them.
Sahar Aly

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