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Coming back home with a suitcase full of plans

Mohammed S. und sein Rückkehrberater am Flughafen

Early morning at the airport in Frankfurt am Main. Mohammed S. pushes a full trolley through the almost empty departure lounge, and speaks to Ivica Marosevic from the regional council in Karlsruhe. The repatriation advisor doesn’t always personally accompany those who have decided to return home this far, but in these times of corona he stays by the side of Mohammed S. until his plane takes off. The Gambian looks happy. He only gets somewhat flustered when he is told at the check-in desk that the suitcases, which he has packed after years away from his home country, are too heavy. He and Marosevic think about what best to do. Some of his luggage will have to be sent by post.

Working together to find solutions – something which Mohammed S. and his repatriation advisor have always done ever since February 2020, when they spoke with each other for the first time about the 44-year-old Gambian’s wish to return home. Mohammed S. was then living in the Baden-Württemberg arrival centre in Heidelberg. He travelled to Europe at the end of 2015, and spent his first few years in Italy before coming to Germany. His desire to return to Gambia grew stronger over time. He missed his wife and four children. They live in his home town of Sare Hamadi in the Upper River Region in the east of the small African country.

Lots of contacts in Gambia already

Uprooting himself and moving to Europe “was a mistake”, said Mohammed S looking back at the start of the year, and has done everything he could to return to Gambia. The return management team at the regional council in Karlsruhe supported him in the process, and made new contacts to give him the best possible preparation for going back home. For example, it put him in touch with David Badu from BBQ/NPI, a training provider run by the Baden-Württembergische Wirtschaft. As part of the Newplacement International project, this training provider deals with making sure that potential returnees have the job skills they will need. Mohammed S. also got in contact with the reintegration scout Rafael Osterloh. The reintegration scouts working on behalf of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) support those who advise returnees how to answer questions about the offers available to returnees from one of the countries participating in the “Returning to New Opportunities” programme. GIZ carries out the program on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Mohammed S. had the idea of opening a small shop selling food and other everyday items after he returned to Gambia. This is an industry which he has experience in. The reintegration scout Osterloh and David Badu from BBQ/NPI put him in touch with business experts and coaches from the Red Cross in Gambia, which meant that he could get himself prepared even before leaving Germany. Mohammed S. actually wanted to use the time before going home to do a training course run by Social Impact StartHope@Home in how to start up a business. But then came the corona pandemic.

Applying for support from Germany

Mohammed S. stuck to his plan of returning to Gambia as soon as possible, and carried on getting ready for the big move. He started off by learning costing, bookkeeping and marketing by smartphone: “This will help me to run my business successfully.” Together with his social impact coach Ismail Santos, he was also able to create a business plan after the contact restrictions were eased in May.

In the meantime, repatriation advisor Ivica Marosevic dealt with processing the application and the administrative requirements, such as procuring travel documents and getting in touch with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). This intergovernmental body supports returnees in going back to their home countries as well as helping them to reintegrate after they have returned.

As of: 09/2020

I feel very well prepared for going back home.
Mohammed S.

A corona test before leaving

Ein Mann blickt in die Kamera.

A corona test before leaving

Mohammed S. did everything right, and together with Marosevic he submitted all the necessary applications for support before leaving Germany. His business plan and the start-up training in Germany also helped him to apply for support from the return and reintegration scheme ERRIN (European Return and Reintegration Network). “The help provided by the ERRIN program in applying for voluntary repatriation while still in Germany makes the process much easier and above all more secure for the applicant”, says Marosevic. “This means that we as the relevant authority can issue the relevant documents directly and also react more quickly where necessary if applications are incomplete or incorrect.” As well as further coaching in Gambia, Mohammed S. can also count on equipment to help set up his shop.

“I feel very well prepared for going back home”, says Mohammed S. shortly before taking off. “It hasn’t been easy because of corona, but we’ve got through it together.” The Gambian was tested for the coronavirus shortly before leaving, and came back negative. With the confirmation that he was covid-free and the plane ticket booked by the IOM, Mohammed S. is flying back to Gambia via Brussels. He will land in the capital city of Banjul early in the evening. His journey isn’t quite over yet though, because then Mohammed S. will take a night bus to his village. Then he will finally get to see his family again after five long years.  


„Ich fühle mich wirklich gut auf meine Rückkehr vorbereitet“, sagt Mohammed S. kurz vor dem Abflug. „Durch Corona ist alles nicht einfach, aber wir haben es zusammen geschafft.“ Für die Reise hatte der Gambier noch kurz zuvor einen Test gemacht, der bestätigte, dass bei ihm keine Infektion mit dem Corona-Virus vorliegt. Mit dieser Bestätigung und seinem Flugticket, das IOM gebucht hatte, fliegt Mohammed S. über Brüssel nach Gambia. Am frühen Abend landet er auf dem Flughafen der Hauptstadt Banjul. Diese eine Nacht muss er noch warten, dann nimmt Mohammed S. einen Bus in sein Dorf. Und sieht nach fünf Jahren endlich seine Familie wieder.