Tell us something about the returnees you work with.
For example, a returnee coming back from Germany springs to mind. We were in contact with him through a reintegration scout in Germany, and had a phone conversation with him before his return. We explained to him what type of support we offer here at GMAC. With the help of our colleagues in Germany, he was able to apply for various programmes before he came back to Iraq. Among other things, it was for courses on business management. Now he is back, and he has been given training on how to open his own hair dressing salon. I will still keep in touch with him until he has finished implementing his project.
How do you manage to build trust?
First I introduce myself to the person. Then we tell them that the conversation will be kept confidential and that their consent is required before we take any further action. We explain to them that we need to ask certain questions to be able to support them according to their needs. For example, we ask them their name, age, year of return and their new place of residence. We also explain all the procedures in detail and talk to them several times. This builds trust between us and them.
How do you make sure that people seeking advice feel understood?
We take time for everyone. We are trained and well informed to respond to individual needs. Since every case is different, we only talk to four people per day. This way we guarantee that no one is short-changed. There is a large screen on the wall of the counselling room at GMAC, which is connected to my laptop as I enter the data of those seeking advice. This allows them to see what we write down about them. We don't keep anything secret, but we discuss everything together. This is another way we make sure the person feels comfortable during the counselling. On-site counselling is not possible at the moment. I am looking forward to hopefully welcoming people back to our offices soon.
What do people suffer from most often?
The returnees often suffer from psychological problems and financial crises. Most of the time they have had to spend all their savings on their return. They need quick support, psychosocial care and a subsidy to pay their rent. We can arrange all that. The next step is for them to find a job or start their own business. Whatever the decision, we support them on their way.
What results are you happy about?
We have managed to successfully reintegrate most people into the local society and economy. Many have a permanent job or their own small business, while others have started vocational training arranged through our centre. I am especially happy that we have been able to give them hope for a better life again after all the difficulties they have had to face.
Can you give an example?
A returnee I spoke to before he left Germany told me that he no longer had any hope of starting a new life in Iraq. He was very tired of life and the difficulties he had gone through. Now he is back, and with our support and continuous counselling he is starting to regain his psychological well-being. He was even able to set up a shop selling telephone accessories. In the meantime, he has had his shop for six months. During this time we have been in constant contact. Seeing someone who had no hope left and who is now back on his feet gives me an incentive to help more people.
What would you like to give returnees to take with them?
If you have decided to return to Iraq, you should first look for support services in Germany. Visit a return counselling centre near you for comprehensive information. Ideally, this will also put you in contact with us at an early stage.
As of: 08/2021
*Name changed by the editors.