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“We offer the opportunity for a new beginning”

Intensive conversations, constructive advice. Photo: istock

“We offer the opportunity for a new beginning”

The phones are constantly ringing, but there’s no sign of stress. Selar is an advisor in the German Centre for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq (GMAC) in Erbil and looks forward to every call. She does admittedly miss the personal contact due to the restrictions caused by the corona pandemic, but nevertheless Selar and her colleagues continue to provide counselling. They help with job placements and starting a business, but they also provide referrals regarding psychosocial support, for example.

“It’s important to me as an advisor for my client to know that I’m always there to give tips and help with reintegration. It doesn’t matter whether it’s to do with a legal aspect, business advice or a personal issue”, says Selar. The advisor loves her job: “I really enjoy it when people put our suggestions on setting up a business into practice, for example. Or when returnees tell me some time afterwards that the counselling changed their lives for the better.”

Responding to the individual situation

She also feels that her work is very varied. “Every person I help has their own background. There are days when I give advice to five different people who have come back from five different countries, live in different parts of Iraq, speak different languages or dialects and need different types of assistance.” As an advisor I wish every returnee would contact GMAC, ideally before returning or at least immediately after they arrive back here. “I would love it if everyone felt encouraged to get in touch with us as soon as possible.”

Selar gives an example of a returnee from Germany who did just that. In the first conversation she explained to him the services that the centre provides. “We then soon found a job for him via a partner organisation. Now he has a regular income.” The man had actually come back to Iraq with a plan to open a restaurant here. Legal hurdles meant that wasn’t possible. He and Selar jointly searched for alternatives – with success.

Engaging with people as equals

The advisor and the rest of the GMAC team feel it is important for them to engage with those seeking advice. This involves listening to them, having an in-depth conversation and thinking together about future plans with a view to professional development. Selar also quickly notices if someone has psychological needs that extend beyond practical issues. “If I get the feeling that someone needs medical assistance or psychosocial support, I offer counselling or a check-up free of charge and explain how important it is for them to take care of their health.”

Of course her work does also come with its challenges, explains Selar. Customised counselling takes time and needs to be well planned. This is the only way to come up with suitable forms of assistance that are also practical and can be meaningfully implemented. Returnees sometimes find this process to be a bit tedious in their individual situation. But it’s important to stick to a specific path, says Selar. Each and every returnee works with the advisors to come up with an individual plan. Once this plan is in place, the GMAC team makes referrals to suitable partner organisations. This mostly involves people taking part in a workshop to further develop their plans and skills. Then comes the actual implementation.

This sustainable approach offers returnees a genuine opportunity for a new start, feels Selar. “Many of them have ten years’ experience in a specific vocational field. But they lack the necessary resources to launch their new business in Iraq, such a business plan or the right contacts. Our advisors and cooperation partners can assist them on all levels and guide them along the entire path, from the initial idea to starting a business or getting a job.”

As of: 06/2021

Every person I help has their own background.

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