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My name is Zanko and I was born in Erbil in 1986. I left for Germany in 2017, because I wanted to get ahead in my career. During my time there, however, I realised what's really important in life. I returned to Iraq and now run my own car maintenance service.

It became clear to me that if you go to Europe, you have to rebuild your life from scratch. I had worked in different trades in Iraq and eventually owned a body shop. But I wanted to achieve more. I obtained a one-month tourist visa for Germany in 2017. I decided to stay after the visa expired, because I wanted to realise my dreams. The authorities granted me temporary accommodation in a refugee shelter.

Zanko in his workshop and car wash in Erbil

A few months later, something terrible happened. Two of my friends in Germany received the news that their mother had died, far away in Iraq. I became aware how important my family is to me, and how I didn't want to live so far away from them any more.

So I visited the immigration office and asked about the options for return. I had a meeting with the advisors there and they explained the necessary steps to me. They had organised everything within two weeks.

The German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration (GMAC) in the Kurdish region of Iraq contacted me once I had returned to Erbil. They arranged an appointment where I was given all the relevant information about my options. GMAC arranged further training for me and helped me organise the materials I needed for my work. That meant I could reopen my business.

The corona pandemic resulted in me having to close my car maintenance service for a few weeks, but I was able to reopen it after the end of Ramadan. I'm optimistic because of the large number of regular customers I have. I also have fixed contracts with car dealerships. We clean the cars in their showrooms and they too are now gradually reopening.

I now lead a simple life, but I'm contented. It's better for me to live in my own country alongside my family.

As of: 06/2020

The opportunities for advice and assistance described here are offered as part of “Returning to New Opportunities”.

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I now lead a simple life, but I'm contented.
Zanko, Iraq

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