Stories of Return

Stories of Return are real stories from real people who decided to return home through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme.


Please note that some photos are for illustration purposes and some names have been changed to respect the privacy of returnees. Some stories are several years old and may not reflect the current situation for the returnee or the country of return.

Afghanistan  |  Albania  |  Argentina  |  Bangladesh  |  Chile  |  Ethiopia  |  India  |  Iran  |  Iraq  |  Kazakhstan  |  Kosovo  |  Kyrgyzstan  |  Mongolia  |  Nepal  |  Philippines  |  Russia  |  Somaliland  |  Sri Lanka  |  Thailand  | Ukraine  |  Viet Nam  |  Yemen

Despite the familiarity, returning home is hard for Wahed

Wahed is a 20-year-old Afghani who left his homeland to find safety in Europe. He thought life in Europe would be full of joy. When he arrived in Norway, he was happy. He even learned Norwegian. But in the end, his asylum application was rejected. His legal guardian told him about IOM, and he decided to return to Afghanistan with them.


The best day was when he saw his family in Afghanistan again and they welcomed him. He also enjoyed being able to wear his own traditional clothing and eating tasty homemade food. He was happy at first but once he was back home, he did not feel safe and at night he could not sleep. He does not feel comfortable being back, but I am compelled to accept the situation the way it is. Without a job, he cannot contribute much to the house rent or his family.


He doesn’t have plans yet in Afghanistan and if he earns money, he plans to leave again and go abroad again.

Wahed Sherzad KHAIRULLAH_1.jpg

“The best day was when I saw my family again. I also enjoyed being able to wear my own traditional clothing and eating tasty homemade food.”

Babur’s mobile phone business

Babur grew up in the Kunar Province in Afghanistan and after graduating from high school he started working with his father in his timber business. When he reached the middle of his twenties, however, he started facing a security problem in his home town. As he did not see it possible to overcome this problem, he decided to migrate to Norway.

After travelling for six months, Babur reached Norway where he claimed asylum and stayed for four years in total. For the first two years, he lived in a reception centre, but eventually he moved to Oslo where he stayed for another two years. During his four years in Norway, Babur was not allowed to work. Instead, he devoted his time to studying languages. His claim for asylum was rejected after six months, and after appealing this decision he received a second rejection two and a half months later.

Having received two rejections to his claim for asylum, Babur started feeling insecure about his future prospects in Norway and decided to apply for voluntary return to Afghanistan with IOM. He returned to Kabul in November 2012 where he was reunited with his family. Upon return, Babur received a cash grant from IOM, which he used to cover his immediate needs. After that, he received in-kind support for starting up a business, as well as a housing allowance and support for vocational training.

Babur is now settled in Afghanistan and he has utilized the reintegration support he received from IOM to go into partnership with a friend who is running a mobile phone business. He says that before returning, he was unsure whether he would be able to start up a sustainable business. In this sense, the reintegration support he received from IOM had a great impact on both his own life and the lives of his family members. Babur says that he had to start his life from scratch, but that in the end, the result turned out good, both for his business and his personal life. He did not find it difficult to reintegrate into Afghan society. Babur does not have any plans of migrating irregularly again.

Afghan man in mobile phone shop

"I had to start my life from scratch,
but in the end the result turned out good."

Atiq returns home after two decades

Atiq left the Helmand province, Afghanistan 21 years ago. Like many migrants before him his goal was to find peace and security. His journey took him to Iran - where he lived for 16 years; to Pakistan – where he stayed for just 15 days; and then finally on to Norway where he lived and worked for four years.

The journey to Europe from Pakistan took two and a half months and cost Atiq 14 000 USD. Life in Norway was financially stable. Atiq worked for a construction company; and even managed to learn Norwegian. Despite being financially independent, his asylum claim and subsequent unsuccessful appeals left him in an uncertain and illegal situation. Threatened with imminent deportation he turned to IOM.

Atiq qualified for the former IRRANA project and in addition to having all travel costs covered, he received the full re-integration package of: business start-up grant, one-off cash payment and housing allowance. With the help of the business start-up grant Atiq is now a partner in an auto-engine oil business.

Having lived outside of Afghanistan for 2 decades returning to Kabul was challenging: "I’d been away for such a long time that I’d lost touch with Afghan culture, but my family helped me adjust. IOM provided me with detailed information that helped me rebuild my life."

Afghan man in workshop

"I’d been away for such a long time that I’d lost touch with Afghan culture, but my family helped me adjust."

Sardar's cosmetics business

Sardar lived in Norway for almost three years before deciding to return to Afghanistan with IOM Norway’s former IRRANA project.

The initial 5 000 km journey between Kabul and Oslo was fraught with danger.  Sardar paid 17 000 to get to Scandinavia, and within just ten months of arriving his asylum application was rejected. Unable to work legally, and suffering from kidney problems he decided to return.

As part of the IRRANA project Sardar received a 25 000 NOK business start-up grant to help him get back on his feet. "I didn’t know the first thing about business", said Sardar, "but IOM gave me good advice and showed me what business opportunities were out there. Finally I decided to open a cosmetics shop; my research showed that the beauty industry is one of the most profitable sectors in Afghanistan."

"It was hard to find work when I first arrived home, but the assistance from IOM has helped me resettle. I’m happy to be back with my family, and I have no plans to migrate again."

Afghan man in cosmetics shop

"IOM gave me good advice and showed me what business opportunities were out there."

Orjon’s car mechanics course and milk business

“I am very happy with the assistance from IOM for my return and reintegration back home. I do not think my reintegration would be possible without it.”

Orjon returned to Albania from Norway in February 2013. He received reintegration support for unaccompanied aged-out minors through IOM’s Vulnerable Groups (VG) project which entailed close follow-up from IOM Norway prior to leaving Norway and close follow-up from IOM Albania after arrival. IOM Albania contacted Orjon’s family and informed them that he was willing to return home. His family was happy to hear that Orjon wanted to come back and they made it clear that they would welcome him upon return. The local IOM office also went into dialogue with Orjon and his family on how to establish a successful business plan for the IOM reintegration assistance.

As Orjon has always been interested in cars, he utilized some of the IOM reintegration support to attend a three month car mechanics course in Tirana. He hopes that he can use his newly acquired car mechanic skills to get a job and build his future as he sees a great need for such skills in Albania. In addition, and in line with the reintegration plan developed in cooperation with IOM, he and his family bought six cows. They developed an income-generating business that has increased the family’s income. The cows produce milk that the family sells at the local market. Through this business, the family is now able to both cover their basic needs and to sponsor Orjon who continues studies in the town of Tropoja.

The reintegration assistance for unaccompanied minors and aged-out minors has a total value of 7 800 USD and includes support for the returnee and his or her family in the areas of education and training, housing allowance, medical support and business start-up. Orjon says that the reintegration support was very useful for his reintegration process in Albania.

Albanian man repairing car in garage

"I am very happy with the assistance from IOM for my return and reintegration back home. I do not think my reintegration would be possible without it.”

Surviving abuse: Esmeralda's story

Esmeralda was abused and came to Norway via Greece with her children. She stayed in a reception centre for 10 months but did not feel at ease. Esmeralda said, "I could not stay in a shelter with lots of unknown people."


Esmeralda decided to return to Albania with assistance from IOM Norway’s Vulnerable Groups project, which provides assistance to returnees in particularly difficult situations. Esmeralda used her reintegration support for vocational training, job placement, payment of rental fees and covering her children’s needs, like school textbooks, etc. She is learning advanced culinary skills and will receive a certificate upon completion.


Her wages are lower in Albania than in other countries she has worked and that was difficult to accept. Her return was not without challenges but the cooperation and assistance with IOM was excellent. She decided to return to Tirana instead of her home city in order to have more opportunities. Since returning, things have improved, and Esmeralda is working and regained contact with her family. Her children have integrated into the school system. Even with the difficulties, her life is better in Albania than in Norway. Esmeralda said, "the initial cash grant from Norway helped me a lot to overcome the initial difficulties. The grant to cover rent for the house for a couple of months and my job placement and training at a bakery and culinary businesses, all these were so much of a great help and so vital for my restart in my home country."

Albanian homes

"To go back with IOM is to travel with dignity."

Blerina & Armend return home

Blerina and her husband Armend came to Norway in 2013 in the hope of a building a new life; they also hoped Armend would receive much needed medical treatment.

After months of trying they were unable find work and life in Oslo became increasingly difficult. With the help of IOM Blerina and Armend planned their return home to Albania. "We were informed of the possibilities to travel," said Blerina. "The support grant covered some of Armend’s medical bills, it also helped with our living expenses giving me time to look for work."

Blerina is now working in a call-centre, but their situation remains difficult – "I have a job and this is the only good news. We have no house of our own and Armend’s medical expenses are costly," says Blerina.

"Our life here is better here than in Norway. In Norway I had no chance to work at all." Like thousands of European economic migrants Blerina cites job opportunities as a pull factor. But her advice to other Albanians in Norway is, “if you think you could have a job in Albania it would be a waste of time to stay in Norway for nothing.”

Albanian family in living room

"Our life is better in Albania than in Norway."

Laurenti’s construction business

Laurenti returned to Argentina in September 2012 with support from IOM Norway’s Financial Support to Return project after having spent only a few months in Norway. Originally a citizen of Ukraine, Laurenti chose to return to Argentina where his daughters are living and where he has a residence permit. Upon arrival, Laurenti received the equivalent to 20 000 NOK by IOM Buenos Aires in reintegration support. He spent 2 000 USD of this money on his daughters and put the rest in a savings account.


Currently, Laurenti is working as a carpenter in La Pedrera in Uruguay. La Pedrera is a town close to the Argentinian border that attracts a lot of tourists, and Laurenti and his team are currently constructing houses to be sold to tourists. While he misses the tranquillity of Norway, he is happy and plans to buy land in Uruguay where he foresees himself living in the future. For him, there is more work in Uruguay and the economy there is more stable compared to Argentina.


When asked about his return experience, Laurenti replied: "I am grateful for the support I received from IOM and I was really pleased with the experience of returning with IOM."

Close up of craftsman

"Please come and visit me and see how beautiful this place is!"

Back in Bangladesh with IOM's help

I was struggling with eyesight problems and returned to Bangladesh with IOM Norway's Vulnerable Group (VG) project, which provides assistance to returnees in particularly difficult situations. I could not see with my right eye. I was not able to do my business properly so my partner was taking care of my business. I needed to go for treatment, and had surgery on my left eye. After the recovery of my left eye, I will look after my partnership business I started with reintegration money from IOM.

To a very large extent, the reintegration plan prepared by me and IOM Norway was possible given the conditions in Bangladesh. IOM Norway counselled and prepared me very well prior to my return. I had realistic expectations with regards to what assistance IOM Bangladesh could offer. I live very far from Dhaka and Sylhet, but IOM was still able to reach me by telephone.

IOM Bangladesh has been a very active member of IOM since 1990 and provides (among many other things) expertise on health, counter-trafficking and repatriation in South-east Asia.

Man making tea in Bangladesh

"All the staff of IOM Norway is very much cooperative in coordination and communication in any aspect."

Xenia is reunited with her family

Xenia migrated from Chile to Spain in 2005, where she started to work as a housekeeper and nanny for a Spanish family.  When the family moved to Norway in 2012 Xenia moved with them. But things didn’t work out and Xenia stopped working for the family. She tried to find work, but the language barrier and her irregular status made it impossible for her to find enough work to survive.

"I had no idea what I would do when I returned to Chile, but the staff at IOM explained the pros and cons of the reintegration packages, and together we made a plan", says Xenia. "The money didn’t influence my decision, but it did help cover my basic costs when I arrived in Santiago. I spent the money on a sewing machine, drivers’ license and my daughter’s school fees."

"I will stay in Chile, my children are here and I have the support of my family."

Aircraft cabin

"IOM understood my vulnerable situation."

Bekele had mixed feelings

Bekele is an older Ethiopian gentleman who chose to leave Norway after living there for 13 years. He is getting older and the political situation in Ethiopia is improving, so he decided to return home. He was worried about returning because he had been gone from Ethiopia for so long, so when he first came back to Ethiopia, he had mixed feelings. The one thing he was most excited about was meeting his family and friends again. Being with family and friends is what he enjoys most about being back home. Though there are challenges, the overall experience of returning to his country has been good. His plans are to open his own business within five years.


“When I returned to Ethiopia after 13 years, I had mixed feelings because I had been gone so long. Though there are challenges, the overall experience of returning has been good.”

Planning to start a construction business

Abdi Gameda Chali is a 33-year-old Ethiopian who came to Norway to escape political persecution in his home country after he was imprisoned for his political beliefs. A broker brought him to Norway, where he expected life to be good, as he had heard. It was. But recent political changes in Ethiopia due to a new administration convinced him to return home. IOM helped him do that.


He was very happy and excited when he first returned home, and so was his family, whom he had been looking forward to meeting. They prepared a feast to celebrate his return. Now he is settling back into life in Ethiopia, where he is comfortable. He still loves to be together with his family, and he trying to get a license to start a construction business. He plans to build his construction business and become successful in five years.

Abdi Gameda_ETH_photo_1.JPG

“I am happy to be back in Ethiopia and together with my family.”

Thomas wants to be part of the positive change in Ethiopia

Thomas is a 40-year-old Ethiopian man who decided to return home because he missed his country, he believed that there was positive change underway in Ethiopia, and he was hoping to do good there. Thomas felt happy to return and feels comfortable being back home. He enjoys seeing many changes in Addis Ababa, especially in terms of infrastructure.


He set about immediately to start his own business. His plans are to open his own film production company and contribute to his country through his filmmaking. He is currently producing a film which deals with migration and is trying to get it distributed to a public audience. He has no plans to leave Ethiopia again because he wants to make a difference at home.


“I decided to return home because I missed my country,

I believed that there was positive change in Ethiopia,

and I am hoping to do good there.”

Seble is getting her Master’s degree

Seble is a 28-year-old woman from Ethiopia. Before she left Ethiopia, she had a good job in a private bank. She left Ethiopia because her brother lives in Norway. She heard that life in Europe is good, and that it would be easy to get a job with a good income.


Life in Norway was not what she expected. She decided to return home because her father became sick and nobody was in Ethiopia to take care of him. She withdrew her asylum application and decided to return with IOM. She felt both happy and worried upon returning. She was excited to meet her father but worried about the insecure political situation and finding a job. She received reintegration support and used the money from IOM to pay for driving lessons, her university tuition and the house rent.


Since she couldn’t find a job, she decided to get her master’s degree instead. She is now enjoying being with her father and studying again. She feels comfortable being back. Overall, it has been a very nice experience to return home. She learned a lot from her trip to Europe and getting the reintegration help from IOM helped her to restart her life in Ethiopia. Her future plans are to continue her education and start her own business selling injera. In five years, she sees herself having completed her master’s and starting another field of study. In addition, she will be running her business.


“With the money I got from IOM I decided to get my master’s degree. It paid for driving lessons, my university tuition and the house rent.”

Alemayehu wants to help other immigrants

Alemayehu is an energetic 29-year old Ethiopian man. He is well-educated with degrees in economics and engineering. He had a good life in Ethiopia working as an aircraft technician for Ethiopian airlines. But when the political situation changed, he found himself in danger as a member of the opposition party and decided to emigrate to save his life. He traveled to Norway with the help of a broker.


Once he got to Norway, he found life in the reception center both challenging and boring. He started having mental health issues. One day at the reception center, he heard about IOM’s services. Though he still had concerns about the political situation, he decided to return. He was only excited about one thing – seeing his mother. Since he returned, he has been looking for a job. It has been the hardest part about returning.


Even though he still faces many challenges, he is hopeful. He plans to expand his cattle fattening business, which he began with the support of IOM, but is not very successful. He would also like to help immigrants by creating job opportunities and providing them with psychological support, as he knows the pain and challenges of being a returnee.

Alemayehu photo.JPG

“In five years, I will have a big business company and I will help immigrants.”

Adia plans to start a dairy business

"My name is Adia. I am 65 years old and live in Ethiopia. I didn’t finish my studies because I got married and had five children. When we got divorced life became very difficult as I lived with my children but didn’t have enough money to feed them or send them to school. During the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the government forced me to leave Ethiopia since my father is Eritrean. I didn’t want to go but I had to. So, I migrated to Europe alone.


People had told me that Europe is the best place to live and that it’s easy to get a well-paid job there. My sister lives in Norway, so that made it an easy choice. I thought it would be easy to apply for my children to join me and that life in Norway would be heaven on earth, but it was the opposite. Living in a reception centre is tough. You can’t work, and you have very little money for necessities, including medical care. It was like a prison. My main reason for returning to Ethiopia was that it wasn’t easy to live in Norway for 10 years without work or freedom of movement.


When I returned, I was worried about how I would make money and live. But I was excited to see my children and breathe the air of Ethiopia. Being hungry but living with my family is better than having a good life but being alone. Right now, I live with my kids but don’t work. It has been hard since I am sick, have no income and my children aren’t successful. My plan is to buy a cow and sell dairy products. I am not sure if I will be alive in five years, but if I am, I will start my own business."

Smiling children in Ethiopia

"Living in a reception centre is tough. It was like a prison. My main reason for returning to Ethiopia was that it wasn’t easy to live in Norway for ten years without work or freedom of movement."

Genet's return to happiness

"My name is Genet. I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1977. I finished high school in Addis and had a job with a good income. I left Ethiopia for political reasons. I was a member of the opposition party and was imprisoned for my political views. After serving the sentence, I decided to escape the country and go abroad. Everyone told me that life in Europe is peaceful and that the living conditions are good.


I chose Norway because I heard many good things about it. The reality was very different. I lived in reception centres for 8 years. I was idle and became unstable, desperate and sick. I spent eight years with nothing to show for it, so I decided to return home. I had many concerns about returning, but I decided to face up to my problems in my home country. Regardless, I had given up on life in Norway.


When I arrived in my country and breathed the air, I was so excited. The return journey went well, and I was very happy when I first returned, even if I regretted the time spent in Norway, which was just wasted life. I haven’t had any challenges since I returned other than my health. I now own a house and rent out a house which I earn an income from.


Now every day is my best day since I am living in my country, speaking my language, and worshipping in my language. I enjoy every aspect of my life, family and my culture. Words cannot explain my happiness right now, especially as there are a lot of new initiatives from the government and our country has become very peaceful. I would never go abroad to live or work again. I cannot imagine my life outside Ethiopia any more."

Celebrating in Ethiopia

"My best day was the day I arrived. I even kissed the ground of my country."

Adunga is getting reacquainted with his old city

"My name is Adunga. I was born in 1992 in Addis Ababa. I have a Norwegian wife and 7-year-old son who both live in Norway. Before I migrated to Norway I was a college student and living with my family. I left due to the political and socio-economic turmoil in Ethiopia at the time. Being in Norway had its ups and downs. I got my first job and salary, started a family and worked in restaurants and hospitals.


After a time, I decided that I couldn’t stay in Norway illegally. I decided to return to Ethiopia to sort out my legal status in a proper manner, so I can join my family in Norway in the future. I was worried about returning home since my country was in transition and the future was uncertain. I felt very worried and emotional the moment the pilot announced that we had landed in Addis Ababa. The best part about being back is not living in constant fear and anxiety every day about what might happen. Uncertainty was a mental torture when I lived in Norway.


I have many challenges, but all of them are tolerable except being without my son and wife. The funniest thing about being back is that I am always getting lost in my own city because so much has changed. Otherwise I feel settled and comfortable here. In five years I see myself back with my family in Norway and continuing my life as a husband and as a father."

Square in Addis Ababa

Photo: Simon Davis/DFID

"The funniest thing about being back is that I am always getting lost in my own city because so much has changed."

Asrat’s restaurant and café

Asrat left Ethiopia in 2002 and came to Norway in search of a better life. His wife and two small children remained at home when he left Ethiopia. Asrat lived in Norway for nine years without a permit to stay and worked at a fish processing company. After many years in Norway he decided to return to Ethiopia. He contacted the IOM office in Oslo to get information regarding the process of voluntary return.

In dialogue with IOM, Asrat was informed of how the return with IOM would be organized and the possibility of organizing transportation to his final destination. He also received in-depth information about the reintegration assistance for returnees to Ethiopia.

Asrat returned to Addis Ababa in November 2012 where he received the equivalent to 45 000 NOK in reintegration support from IOM. He used the reintegration assistance to renovate his house in Dilla town. He also developed a business plan and opened a restaurant and café on the first floor of the building. Another part of the building is rented out to an Ethiopian commercial bank.

Asrat is happy to be reunited with his wife and children and grateful for that he is once again living with his family in Ethiopia. He invested the reintegration support from IOM wisely and is currently earning enough money to support his family.

Café and bank in Ethiopia

"I am happy to be reunited with my wife and children after returning to Ethiopia with IOM."

Shalu starts a business

"I went to visit my parents in Oslo on a tourist visa with my children and decided to stay. I lived in Norway for a little over a year. My life in Norway was extremely good as I had access to many opportunities like language courses and my family supported me while I was in Norway.

I decided to return to India as I applied for residency in Norway but was rejected. I came to know about IOM through the Norwegian immigration department. Through the IOM programme, I had the opportunity of reintegrating myself with the necessary support in setting up a service of livelihood and leading a self-dependent life. All the necessary factors to my specific situation were duly taken into account.

I am permanently staying in India. I did not face any problem after my return. My community was co-operative and my children adapted to the local community with support from my family and friends. My children are very busy now with school. I was counselled and advised by IOM about my reintegration whenever required. IOM assisted me with accommodation immediately after arrival and provided the necessary emotional support to facilitate effective reintegration. The reintegration support influenced my decision as it assisted me to start a source of livelihood. I purchased a commercial vehicle with IOM support which is generating income for me and my children. I am also pursuing further education in computers. I used the housing assistance on a lease for five years.

I am very happy with the reintegration support. My current life is good and I have my own home and source of income. We have a decent standard of living. I am quite effectively resettled as I have access to all the basic amenities for a good life. My livelihood activity has just started yielding an income. With further growth, I am expecting to do well. My local IOM office provided great and timely assistance. I am thankful for that. I am glad to be home."

Street in India

"IOM does good work and should continue in the future to help others."

Kaveh's life is back to normal

"My name is Kaveh. I am a husband and father from Iran. I decided to move to Europe when a bank repossessed all my belongings, including my house and car, after I couldn’t repay a large loan. I hoped I could earn enough money in Europe to support my family and recover my financial losses. I thought I would save enough money to send for my family to join me. I thought that life in Europe would be less stressful. I was wrong.


Life in Norway was difficult because I had no job or money, and I was stuck in reception centres. I met a family with children whose situation was very poor. This got me to reflect on my own situation and my own family, whom I had left behind in Iran without any financial resources or support.  There was no bright future for me in Norway without a work permit for me to earn money. I finally decided to return home voluntarily through IOM. Missing my family and worrying about how to support them were the main reasons I decided to return home. IOM helped me to return and provided me with financial aid to purchase a car.


I was so excited to get home and see my family after months away, and they were equally happy to see me. I decided then that I would never leave my family again. When I first returned I had no job and no money. I was so sad and disappointed. The first days were tough, but now things are better. I used the car I bought to earn money as a private taxi driver. Overall, returning home has been a very positive experience. I did everything I could to support my family and felt terrible when I couldn’t do that from abroad."

Close up of man in car

"Life is back to normal and I see myself in Iran in the future. This is where I belong."

Seyed's new beginning

"My name is Seyed and I am sixty years old. I never expected my life to take the turn it did these past few years. I had a family, a solid job and a decent income as a factory manager in manufacturing. But then things changed when my son got into trouble with the government authorities, and they made life difficult for us. My son and I decided to escape Iran as quickly as possible, without visas and leaving as little trace as possible.


Leaving Iran and my wife behind wasn’t an easy choice, but it seemed like the only choice. Besides, I had been to Europe so many times as a tourist that it felt like a safe and reasonable solution to our problems to migrate there. I knew that my son and our family would have a chance in Europe. Our journey took us to and through Russia to the northern border with Norway, where we crossed over on bicycle. My vision of life in Norway was not at all what I expected. It was very difficult, especially during those first weeks. But eventually, we moved to Tromsø, a great city with very nice people. We made friends with some locals, and things got better. Life there was good.


Unfortunately, everything changed suddenly when my wife contacted me and asked for a divorce. I decided to return to Iran immediately to try to save my marriage. My son, however, could not return due to the risk to his safety. I hoped that going home was the key to saving my marriage and keeping my family together, but it didn’t turn out that way. That was the hardest part of all this. I had nothing left to lose. My house, job, money and family were gone."

Azadi Tower in Iran

"The support that IOM and friends gave me went toward renting an apartment, which helped in getting my life back on track."

Giti is working as a beautician

"My name is Giti. I am a 50-year old widow from Iran. When I was 19 I was forced to marry a much older man, who needed a caretaker for his sickly mother and brother and their 19 cats. I always wanted to run away. I finally left his home and asked for a legal separation, but I could never escape my husband and his family’s constant threats to return and serve them.


I heard that there is more respect for women and equality between men and women in Europe. I thought life there would be comfortable and less stressful, so I consulted a smuggler who wanted a lot of money to take me to Norway. In Norway I had to stay in a small village with other migrants, and we had to pay for our food. After three months I got tired of the situation and ran out of money, so I decided to present myself to the police. They sent me to a processing centre.


At the centre, I met IOM staff who talked about their services for those who want to return to their country of origin voluntarily. That gave me the idea of returning home to live with my parents. IOM offered me consultation and financial aid when I arrived home. I was still afraid that my husband’s family would find and harass me. So, I kept my return a secret from everyone until I got back. I didn’t even tell my family, so it was a big surprise for them when I showed up.


I have now purchased a radio frequency machine using IOM assistance, and have been trained to work in a skin beauty clinic. Although my husband passed away a while ago, his family is still threatening my family. That is why I am still thinking of a way to migrate again, but this time legally."

Woman wearing hijab in a bazaar

"The best moment was seeing my family again, and they were very happy to see me."

Afsoon's drive for love

"My name is Afsoon. I was a member of the Iranian national Karate team for three years, before I decided to flee my country. The reason? Love.


Years ago, I fell in love with a girl whose father worked for the army. I was a young athlete and had no money to speak of, so when I approached the girl’s family to ask for her hand in marriage, her father refused since he wanted his daughter to marry the son of a rich colleague. The girl and I decided to run away and live together somewhere her family couldn’t find us. It was a nice, romantic life at first, but things got worse because my father-in-law and his friends were pursuing us. We decided to escape Iran and live in Europe to be free from fear and live in peace.


We traveled to Norway but were not able to get asylum, so she went home to Iran and I tried to get asylum. After a long waiting period, I approached IOM to get support to return to Iran, which was very helpful for me in that difficult situation. I am currently working as a taxi driver to support my small family. Although my wife and I are still living in hiding from her family and hoping to move to another country, we would never again do so illegally and never without each other."

Taxi in traffic in Iran

"I approached IOM to get support to return to Iran which was very helpful for me in that difficult situation."

Hamid is never leaving his family again

"My name is Hamid. I left my country for what I thought would be a better life for my daughter. I had a good job in Iran as a coach and taxi driver. I could provide my wife and daughter everything they needed. A couple of years ago, I realized that my daughter had special talents and I wanted to provide her with more opportunities to grow. I thought that raising her in a more developed country would allow her to have a brighter future. I decided we should move to Europe.


Unfortunately, there was no way for my family and I to migrate legally and benefit from the European educational system. So, I decided to move to Europe illegally and send for my family once I had gotten residency. I was advised to travel to Norway through the northern border with Russia. During my first month in Norway, I changed my mind about the way I had migrated. I regretted leaving my beloved family behind in Iran.


IOM provided me with very clear information on the voluntary return procedure, as well as the forms required, which I signed on the spot. IOM gave me airport assistance and a cash grant, which was a great help to cover daily expenses for almost one month until I could return to my job as driver."

Taxi driver in Iran

"Now I am so satisfied with life with my lovely family and my sweet daughter that I would never think of leaving them alone again."

Mehri helped her parents

"My name is Mehri. I am a 41-year old anesthetic technician. I studied social sciences and then worked in a Jewish hospital in Tehran for 16 years. Due to security issues I decided to leave my job and Iran. But I had no idea where to go and how to do it. Then I met and fell in love with a man who lives in Norway. We got married, and I was told that I should enter Norway illegally and apply for asylum. I applied, but I didn’t get it. When I received the second rejection of my case, my migration lawyer told me to leave Norway and request family reunification legally from Iran. He also introduced me to IOM and I decided to return with IOM since their support reduced my anxiety about going back to Iran.


Once I returned home I found out that my parents were having financial problems due to Iran’s poor economy. They hadn’t been able to afford the rent for their apartment for months. Thanks to promised reintegration assistance from IOM, I could pay for the back rent of my parents’ apartment. Now I am preparing the required documents to legally apply for family reunification and at the same time am looking for a job, since the visa procedure may take a long time."

Anesthetic technician in Iran

"Once I returned home I was able to help out my parents who were having financial problems due to the poor economic situation in Iran."

Mohammad is finishing high school

"My name is Mohammad. I am 18 now, but I was 16 when I chose to leave Iran to live in a safer country. I had no family or financial problems, but I faced some ideological difficulties at school. So, my parents helped me get my Schengen visa and flight ticket to Italy. From there I traveled by plane to Norway. When I arrived at the airport, I turned myself into the immigration police. They sent me to an unaccompanied minors’ processing center. After two months I was transferred to other transit camps where I stayed from between two to four months until I turned 18.


At that point I was sent to an adult camp, which had terrible facilities and services. After two weeks in those conditions and having my asylum application rejected, I decided to return to Iran to avoid deportation. I had heard about IOM and its services while staying at different camps. This encouraged me to return to Iran with IOM assistance. My goal now is to finish high school. I am currently taking the exams that I missed. I will use the cash assistance that I receive from IOM for educational purposes and apply to a university abroad if I can get a study visa."

Café in Iran

"My goal now is to finish high school. I am currently taking the exams that I missed."

Ehsan built a carpentry workshop

"I went to Norway for eight months with my brother. We thought we would stand a better chance of getting a job. It was difficult for us to adjust with the current situation in Norway, and the weather was not so nice. There were many limitations for us, such as finding a job. In Iran, I feel more comfortable without those limitations and my life is better than in Norway. I started a partnership in a carpentry workshop and it takes time to be independent, but I’m optimistic about my future. I’m in a better position now since I can plan my future. I want to expand my work and resume my education. I finished high school but want to go further. 

I heard about IOM from IOM staff who visited the reception centre. We had enough information about the conditions in Iran. The assistance I received from IOM was sufficient and useful in accordance with my needs, but I wish it were more. We live in a remote part of Iran far away from the IOM office and transportation was a little difficult but we received our grant. When I think about going abroad to live again, it wasn’t a good experience for me. I don’t want to experience it again. We barely could meet our living expenses. Norway was not a good experience for us and we came back home permanently."

Iranian chess

"I started a carpentry workshop."

Mohammed's shoe business supports his family

"My name is Mohammed. I left Iraq because of my wife. I didn’t want to leave my home, where I was happy, but she insisted. My wife’s sisters were living in Norway and she wanted us to build a new life there. We were smuggled by boat to Greece. It was a very difficult journey, as we were in the water for many days and nights. I will never forget the difficulties that my wife and I endured before we reached Norway.


Life in Norway was great. I liked everything about it. But when my wife’s asylum application was approved and mine was rejected for the second time, she divorced me. I had few choices but to leave Norway. IOM supported me in every way and I am thankful they provide support to me and people like me. My family was the one thing that I was excited to return to, because they are my life and I owe them everything.


Due to my skills I was able to find a job just weeks after returning. I am working in a shop selling women’s shoes. I started working at a young age, so I learned a lot and gained some experience before I left my home. But I realize that I learned many more lessons during my journey to Europe. It was a learning process that gave me a lifetime of experience.


Starting from scratch was very hard. I returned with nothing and was divorced, so how could it not be difficult? On the other hand, seeing my family and the smiles on their faces when they saw me again made me so happy. Being in my community among family and friends has given me hope. I am happy that I feel reintegrated in my community, and I believe I will get better and everything will go back to normal. I think I will find a better job and marry again. This is where I belong."

Iraqi man working in shoe shop

"I earn enough to provide for my daily needs and to support my family."

Rashida’s sweet love

"My name is Rashida. I have dedicated myself to my two children and would do anything for them to be happy and achieve their dreams. I am married but live alone with my children in Iraq, because my husband lives in Norway where he has residency. I migrated to join him there.


We embarked on our journey with a smuggler. The whole trip was full of fear and risks as we were in danger of being caught by authorities in any country that we passed through. But I was still excited about reuniting with my husband again. Once I got to Norway, life was difficult. Since I did not have asylum or residency, I could not work or study, or even see a doctor if I got sick. I had no rights in Norway.


Finally, my asylum claim was rejected. I decided to return home while my husband stayed in Norway. I expected life in Iraq to be very challenging since my children would be my sole responsibility and I would need to find a way to make money to take care of them. I had very mixed feelings about returning, as I was sad to leave my husband but also happy that I would see my mother again and feel free again in my home country among my relatives and friends.


Overall, returning has been an enriching experience as it has taught me many things about life. Most importantly, I have learned to stand on my own two feet and work for the things that I want to improve life for myself and my children. I would like to start working in a pastry shop making sweets or make them at home to have my own source of income and support my children."

Iraqi woman in her home

"I thought life in Europe would be very good and that all I wanted would be at my disposal and my dreams would all come true."

Mohammed, the barber

"My name is Mohammed. I am 30 years old and single. I am a barber by profession. When the situation in Iraq changed for the worse, I decided to leave for Europe. I had heard from friends that Europe is developed and peaceful, and that human life is more highly valued there than in Iraq. I was excited to start this new chapter in my life. I migrated to Norway and stayed there for four years. The first year was tough because I lived in a reception centre and didn’t have a job. But then I applied for work as a barber and I got the job. 


Eventually the immigration laws got tougher and my work permit was cancelled so I lost my job. Life got harder, so I decided to return to Iraq with dignity and pride. I thought that returning would be better than staying in Norway without a job. I expected that life would not be easy, because I was used to the Norwegian lifestyle and community. But, I had hopes to get married, have kids and live a stable life. I was also excited to meet my family and friends, whom I had missed a lot. When I arrived home, I felt a mix of happiness and sadness, frustration and excitement, that I cannot describe.


My friends helped me to restart my barbershop business from scratch, so I am working again as a barber. I am still not completely reintegrated into the Iraqi community. I often feel uncomfortable being back, but I try my best to cope. Sometimes I think how my life would have been if I hadn’t returned, but I do not regret my decision because I chose to leave with dignity and I live among my family and friends again. I learned so much from my migration experience and about the Norwegian culture. The overall experience changed my life forever."

Iraqi barber

"When I returned home to Iraq, I felt a mix of happiness, sadness, frustration and excitement that I cannot describe."

Wathiq aims for his own house and business

"I’m Wathiq from Basrah, Iraq. I’m 42 years old and am married with two children. Before I migrated to Europe, I had my own restaurant business and a good income which supported me and my family. But in 2015 I started facing threats and had to flee to safety. I had heard that Europe was safe, and I thought life there would be easier. A friend of mine in Norway told me to migrate there. The trip was very challenging because it was very dangerous until I arrived in Norway. In Norway I was very comfortable, and people treated me with dignity and respect. But my asylum application was rejected several times, so I had to leave.


I thought it would be better to return and continue my life among family and friends. I found out about IOM through UDI. They supported me a lot before my return and I received money when I arrived back in Iraq. I was worried about returning home since the situation is so unstable and I was afraid I would be threatened again. I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to find a job to provide for my family. I tried to think positively that I could start over from scratch and that things might get better. I was also looking forward to seeing my family again after so long.


After that things were tough for a few months while I looked for a job. I was very happy to find one in a relative’s car wash business. I work there now, but the salary isn’t enough to cover the needs of my family, so I am looking for a better paid job to support them and build a better future for my children. My future goal is to have my own house and business. Maybe I can reopen my restaurant and then help my children to make their dreams come true.


Returning to Iraq was both challenging and exciting. It was interesting to see other countries and meet people with different cultures and traditions and learn about a new culture. I enjoy being back in my home with my family, who give me hope. They were supportive and encouraged me to work and make money to support them and make their dreams a reality. Sometimes I think of migrating again, but then only with my family. I would recommend IOM to others I know in Europe who plan to return to Iraq, since they are very supportive."

Man washing car

"My return journey was exciting and full of learning experiences. There was a funny moment when I got in the taxi at the airport to go home. The driver asked for my address and I couldn’t remember it exactly! But by far the best moment was when I saw my children again and the happiness in their eyes. I will never forget that moment."

Shalaw, the shoe salesman

"My name is Shalaw. I am 32 years old. My life in Iraq was not good even though I had my own business selling shoes. I always wanted to leave due to economic and political instability. I was told that European citizens have a very high standard of living. I chose Norway because I thought that it is a safe country with a strong economy. But, I and those in my situation couldn’t enjoy the beauty of the country.


In Norway, life for people whose asylum request is rejected is a struggle. After my request was rejected the second time, I saw my sad future unfolding before me. I heard about IOM from other migrants and decided to return home. After being in Norway, my life had changed dramatically, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to find my way again, but I was happy and confident about my decision. Seeing the smiles on the faces of my family and friends when I returned was an exciting moment.


When you arrive back home, reality is waiting for you at the front door. The first two weeks after coming home I felt devastated because I didn’t know what to do. Reverse culture shock is the worst. Family and friends just don’t understand what you’ve been through. Now I am working with my relatives in a shop selling shoes. I am very happy.


I plan to spend the rest of my life among my family and friends. I would love to own this or another shoe shop in the future and I plan to go back to school to finish my studies. I hope to travel as a tourist to Europe but would never migrate irregularly again. It is a waste of time and resources. On the other hand, my journey was the most exciting experience of my life. Traveling made me more independent, social and adventurous. I explored the world, experienced freedom, learned about the rich culture of Europe, made friends for life, and learned a lot about myself in a very short time."

Young man selling shoes

"I am grateful to be back home though it takes time to process it. Life gives you so many opportunities after an experience like this."

Family first

"My name is Husham. I am 27 years old and have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I am married and have a son named Karar, who is 7. Before leaving Iraq, life was tough. I was a fresh graduate and got married young. We left due to the bad economic situation and went to look for new opportunities in Norway, where my sister lives, to build a good life for my family.


My brother and mother came with us too, but couldn’t stay in Norway, so we decided to return with them through IOM. I was disappointed to leave Norway. The political and economic situation in Iraq is difficult and it’s not easy to predict or plan our future. My main goal was to find a better job to support my family and build up a future for my son. All I want is to provide a safe and good life for my family.


Things have gradually started to get better. Many of my friends offered me financial help. Now I am working as an internet and communication service provider and am happy that I have a job. I do not feel that comfortable being back because Iraq has many issues and I am worried about my son’s future. Sometimes I feel satisfied about my decision because I see a huge number of returnees, which makes me feel more confident about my decision."

An Iraqi family

"When we returned I was excited and worried. I worried about building a new life again and being able to provide an income for my family. My overall experience of returning was better than I expected. It was a lesson learned."

Nibar’s job placement and evening classes

Nibar left Iraq in July 2007 because he was lacking stability in his life and had several personal problems. First, he arrived in Turkey and from there he continued to Norway where he stayed for five years. In Norway, he started going to school and then joined a Norwegian cleaning company for which he worked for four years. In Norway, Nibar forgot about his personal problems and managed to adapt to the Norwegian way of life.

After not having his work permit in Norway renewed, however, Nibar decided to apply for voluntary return to Iraq with IOM. Despite feeling settled in Norway, he felt that the time had come for him to leave. With the support of IOM, he arrived in Erbil in February 2012 from where he went back to his home town Duhok in Northern Iraq. Upon arrival, Nibar received a cash grant from IOM and was then further assisted with post-arrival counselling and reintegration support by IOM’s Duhok office.

Nibar chose job placement as his in-kind project and is currently working as a clerk at a car outlet. In addition, Nibar got support for training which he used to attend a course in English in order to improve his language skills. After settling into his new life in Iraq, he also resumed with his studies by taking evening classes after work. He is happy about his new life and opportunities back in Iraq.

Man on street in Iraq

"Many days, months and years will be spent abroad, but surely one day will come and you’ll decide to return back home, because nothing is more valuable than the family, and there is no life without them."

Parkhet wants a better future for his children

"Norway is located quite far from Kazakhstan, though at first we were heading for Sweden.  We applied for status as asylum seekers, and were awaiting decision during this period for four years and two months. We were fully dependent on the Norwegian government for support. Still, for us our life in Norway was like a good dream. 

Before we returned, we knew the situation in Kazakhstan fully from TV channels, and we kept in touch with relative and friends. However, we wanted to leave almost immediately after our return, and are still thinking of moving to another country. We face difficulties in adapting in to our local society rules and people’s behaviour. We are also sad with people’s attitude to us if we are not well-dressed, or if my wife and daughters are without make-up.   

We decided to leave Norway because of sad family events, which happened during our absence. My wife’s parents were in deep desperation and needed our care and support. For family reasons, we made our decision to return as soon as possible. Of course, the grant and general assistance from IOM brought us some certainty that after arrival, we would have some funds to start our life here with fewer difficulties. We used the grant to buy school uniforms and school supplies for our children. We spent some to repair our house. The grant was very useful to start-up life in Kazakhstan. Without this money, we would face many more difficulties in every area of life. I don’t feel economically independent, as I don’t work currently because of health conditions. My wife works as a medical nurse, but her salary is not high enough to cover all our family’s needs.  

We feel people in Norway were much better than here.  If I didn’t have family reasons in Kazakhstan, I would make all effort to stay in Norway. I want to give an education to my children, but I would advise to stay in Norway rather than return to home country."

Hats from Kazakhstan

"I want to give an education to my children."

Valbon’s finishing school

"The main reasons I travelled to Norway was because Norway is a rich and secure country. I had a very good time and enjoyed every moment of my life.

I had no legal right to stay in Norway and I did not have any other better choice but to return. The reintegration support was the main reason to decide to return. Everything with IOM was perfect. The return organized by the IOM Vulnerable Groups project was very professional, friendly and sincere. The cooperation between us was remarkable. Every detail of counselling was clear and sufficient.

When I returned I was confused and not sure of myself. Life back in my country can be considered good as I am close to my family. On the other hand, it can be considered bad because of the economic instability and social life difficulties I found after return.

The reintegration support received after my return was very useful and necessary considering the fact that none of my family members are employed. The housing grant was used to renovate the bathroom and the flooring of the house. We also furnished the house. The initial phase of the work placement activity was researching job opportunities and afterwards establishing an employment contract. The duration of the contract signed with my company is foreseen for 12 months with the possibility of extension.

In addition to finding work, I started 11th grade immediately after returning. Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue with my classmates and the ongoing class which I lost while being in Norway. I will complete high school this year. My goals are to graduate high school and get a diploma, a long-term working contract and to develop more professional skills."

Street stall in Kosovo

"If your return is organized by IOM, do not think twice.  Just come back."

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.    

Maxence’s dream of Canada

"I am a single man with no formal education. I was away for two years. First I was in Sweden and then I came to Norway. I came to Norway because Norway is rich. My life in Norway wasn’t bad or good. It was just nothing. I could not work. I had no money. I was afraid of being deported. I had no other choice.

When a counsellor at my reception centre told me about IOM, I decided it was time to return. I had a good experience with IOM. However, I felt I didn’t have enough information about what was happening inside Kyrgyzstan. I had difficulties when I returned home. I could not find a job and had no money, I used my grant for business, paying off loans and living expenses. To survive, I am now doing odd jobs and trading things in the market.

I am definitely thinking about going somewhere else to live and work.  I dream about a life in Canada."

Yurt in Kyrgyzstan

"I could not work. I had no money. I was afraid of being deported. I had no other choice."

Temelun practices medicine again

"I am a single mother with two children. I finished college and became a doctor and wanted to build a better life for my children. I came to Norway for job opportunities that did not work out. I had to do illegal work to live.

I decided to return home before knowing about the possibility of receiving an assistance grant but it was very helpful. It went to pay immediate living costs and more education. The grant is an excellent way to support people and their futures.

Voluntary return offered by IOM was actually enjoyable and I felt dignity during the travel. My life in Mongolia is better than it was in Norway. Being a doctor and not being able to do my work was very difficult for me. Living in Mongolia is good and I’m happy to be home. I didn’t have any real difficulties when I returned home. I plan to get a permanent job and to live in a bigger city.

What would I tell people thinking about returning? It is better to return home.  Do not stay in an irregular situation for a long time. It is not good.  While I might work again in another country, right now it is good to be home."

Mongolian horses

"I felt dignity when I travelled."

Deepak returns safely with IOM

Deepak came to Norway in 2012 to escape discrimination in his native Nepal. Like many other Nepalese graduates he migrated to Oslo to find work. With a wife, children and parents to support back in Kathmandu he was forced to work illegally. Unable to find a steady job, his money soon ran out. It was then that he took the advice of a friend and contacted IOM.

After returning to Nepal with the help of IOM, Deepak started working part-time for a construction company. His wages, plus the financial support he received from IOM, helped him get back on his feet. "Life in Nepal is good,” says Deepak. "It’s better than it was in Norway."

"I don’t plan to migrate again, but work opportunities are a real pull factor," he says to the IOM Nepal staff in Kathmandu. Deepak’s advice to migrants thinking of going home: "Return with IOM – it’s safe and reliable."

Road works in Kathmandu, Nepal

"Return with IOM – it’s safe and reliable."

Min returns after losing a loved one

Min came to Norway with the financial support of his family in 2013. He was attracted to Scandinavia because of its open societies and commitment to human rights. The 41 year old, originally from the Lalitpur district of Nepal, lived in Oslo for 6 months before choosing to apply for the voluntary return program. His motivation to move back to Nepal was the death of his wife; dealing with her absence was the biggest challenge he faced on return.

Min Bahadur was able to survive financially with the help of family and the FSR grant he received as part of the voluntary return package. Four months after returning he has his own construction business, but finding enough work to support his children and extended family is hard.


Min Bahadur isn’t sure what the future holds for him and his family. For now, he is focusing on growing the business and supporting his children.

Nepalese road workers

"The financial support helped me when I returned."

Poudel leaves irregular status behind

Poudel came to Norway for security and human rights. After four years in Norway, Poudel decided to return to Nepal. While he was financially independent in Norway and he believed his life was good enough, his political and legal status in Norway was not acceptable. Poudel received financial support to return and re-establish his life in Nepal. The financial support to return was Poudel’s main source of income upon return, but he used the time to work on a plan of establishing a mineral water production plant.

Poudel thought the amount of the cash grant was not enough to start a business in Nepal, but Poudel said, "I consider the assistance programme very much helpful and important to the returnee like me." When asked, "What advice would you give to people in Norway thinking of returning home?" Poudel responded, "I would really like to suggest them to come through IOM."

IOM Nepal has been a member of IOM since 2006 and and has done extensive work with counter-trafficking, a severe problem in Nepal, and also one of Nepal’s biggest challenges, migration due to climatic hazards and climate change.

Nepalese buildings

"I would really like to suggest to come through IOM."

Sanu returns home to start printing business

After four years in Oslo and Kristiansand, Sanu returned to Nepal to be united with his wife and children. An undergraduate in Nepal, Sanu travelled to Norway for job opportunities he supported himself by working illegally.

Political changes in his native Nepal encouraged Sanu to return home. He did not have any particular difficulties when he arrived back. He used most of his reintegration support to run his new business; a printing company.

Sanu feels moderately economically independent. While happy to be in Nepal, Sanu is definitely considering going abroad to live and work again.

"I'm happy to be in Nepal again."

Nepalese prayer flags

"I'm happy to be in Nepal again."

Leaving Stavanger with dignity

Sujan came to Norway at the beginning of 2013. A 26 year old undergraduate from the eastern part of the Kathmandu valley, he hoped that Norway would provide personal and professional stability. Sujan settled in western Norway where he worked as a teacher, supplementing his income by working at McDonald’s.

Life in Norway was good and he didn’t want to return to Nepal, but when his asylum application was denied and his work permit expired he needed to think about returning home. "I heard about IOM through the internet and the mottak (refugee centre). I chose IOM because I wanted to travel back with a sense of dignity."

"The cash grant wasn’t a motivating factor for me. I had a good job in Stavanger - I was self-sufficient. The money has definitely helped. I’ve used it to cover some of the tuition costs for my business studies degree. And when I first returned to Nepal the grant was my main source of income. Receiving the money took some time, but it came through in the end."


"I think it would be useful to have skills based training for returnees, or help with finding a job. That way we would have more long term independence", said Sujan.

Sujan did not want to leave Stavanger, and settling back into life in Nepal after an absence of four years – 9 months of which was spent in Norway – was hard. "My life here is worse than it was in Norway. I’m unemployed and I’ve lost my independence.  I’m definitely thinking about migrating again. I don’t know where, but I will try to go abroad and make my life better."

Nepalese an using a Mac

"The cash grant wasn’t a motivating factor for me."

Anna is not afraid anymore

"Because of the difficulty of life in the Philippines, I was forced to seek employment abroad to help my family. Unfortunately, that did not go well, as I encountered difficult employers. The situation that I experienced is something that I do not want to relive. I worried that when I went back to the Philippines, life would still be very hard for me and my family as we do not have that much income.

I am very glad I decided to seek help from IOM in order to go home. The case officers who assisted me were very helpful and they explained how I was able to claim assistance. IOM reintegration grant helped me in resettling in my country. Through IOM’s help, I now have a better outlook in life. I am confident that when I finish my studies funded by the grant, I’ll be able to find a good job and help support my family. Somehow, IOM made it possible to regain my confidence. I am still afraid sometimes when I remember what I went through in Norway, but IOM has given me new hope in starting a better life, IOM made it possible for me to not be afraid any more.

I enjoy my studies very much. The kinds of things that are taught to us are also very challenging. When I finish my program, I plan to find employment in our community to gain enough experience. Eventually, if a better opportunity will present itself, I’m hoping that I will be able to find employment overseas as a caregiver.

At the moment, I do not have any plans of leaving the Philippines. I plan to finish my studies, and then try to find employment in our community to gain further experience."

Philippino woman

"IOM made it possible for me to not be afraid anymore."

Michelle studies nursing

Michelle was working as an au pair in Norway, but her work permit was withdrawn when she quit her job due to exploitation and abuse. Without a job contract her lawyer advised her to contact IOM in order to be assisted with voluntary return back to the Philippines. Following her application to the Voluntary Assisted Return Programme in July 2013, Michelle returned to the Philippines in September 2013 having been granted reintegration support under the Financial Support to Return project. Upon arrival, Michelle was met by IOM at Manila International Airport and provided with a check worth 20 000 NOK.

Three months after arrival, Michelle is living with her twelve family members and she is studying to become a nurse. Even though she is studying, she is still adjusting to her new life in the Philippines. She wants to have a job in order to have an income but she finds it difficult to find employment in the Philippines right now. The reintegration support has been spent on daily costs and she has not ruled out the option of coming back to Norway to find employment as she still has connections there.

Nurse using a laptop

"I still have connections in Norway. Maybe one day I will go back."

Jusup’s new house

In July 2010, Jusup decided to migrate with his wife and newborn son to Norway as they no longer felt that it was safe for them in Russia. After receiving two rejections to their claim for asylum in Norway, however, Jusup and his wife started considering the option of returning because they did not want to stay in Norway without a legal status. As their relatives and friends back home also assured them that it was safe enough for them to come back, Jusup and his family applied for voluntary return with IOM and departed for Russia with support from the Financial Support for Return project in June 2011.

After arrival, Jusup utilized the reintegration grant he received from IOM to build a house for himself and his family. He also managed to get a temporary job, but says that he would not be able to manage without IOM’s support. Without having a permanent job, Jusup has not made any further plans for the future. Jusup says that job opportunities are very limited in Russia, but he still considers the improved security situation to be the most important thing to him and his family. At the moment, he does not have any plans of migrating abroad again.

Chimney and roof tiles

"Security is the most important thing to me

and my family."

Liubov finds permanent work, but not religious freedom

"We are members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses church and were afraid for our lives in Russia. That is why we moved to Norway. As for security, we felt very comfortable in Norway. The living conditions and the food in the reception centre were very decent. The security and freedom was much better than in Russia. We did not try to work illegally as we are law-abiding people. There was only one reason for leaving – we did not have any legal grounds to stay in Norway.

We still have the same problems which we faced before departure to Norway. Technically we do not have an opportunity to move to any other place. We experience new threats due to our religious views. My husband and I have permanent jobs at the moment. I am employed by an IT company and my husband is employed by a plant manufacturing wooden windows.

In my mind there are no complaints. I can say that IOM treated us very well. Nobody treated us like migrants. We felt that people around us treated like equals. The assistance during return helped to make the process of return more comfortable. We were treated as ordinary people. Again, nobody said that we were migrants or illegal people. From a material point of view, our life back in Russia is OK, but from a psychological point of view, it is very bad as we still experience the same troubles due to our religious views.

At the moment, it is possible to live. We would leave again if they try to put us in jail. We would have to leave the country to find a secure place to live. If you must return, I would recommend working with IOM in order to return without any problems."

Window with reflection of the sky and a tree

"We felt that people around us treated us as equals."

Elmi’s livestock business

After living in Norway for almost two years, Elmi returned to Somaliland with support from IOM Norway’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration to Somaliland project in November 2012. He was happy to receive IOM assistance throughout his journey from the airport in Norway, through transit in Kenya and upon arrival in Somaliland. IOM Hargeisa met Elmi at Bebera airport in Somaliland and assisted him with transportation until his final destination.

Elmi used the first instalment of his reintegration grant to cover his daily expenses after return and invested the rest in a livestock business buying and selling goats. He feels moderately economically independent but hopes that in the long run, he will be able to develop his business and generate more income. He is, however, able to provide for his wife and eight children for now. Elmi also received housing allowance support to cover his housing expenses in the first period after return.

Elmi says that he is happy to be back in Somaliland and that he has been able to reestablish contact with family and friends after return. He is pleased to be reunited with his wife and children and says that he has no plans of leaving Somaliland again. When it comes to the security situation, Elmi says that he feels safe enough.

Men with goats

"I feel moderately economically independent, but hope that in the long run, I will be able to develop my business and generate more income."

Ruwan's medical treatment

Ruwan returned with IOM’s Voluntary Assisted Return Programme from Norway to Sri Lanka in November 2012. He is very happy with the support he received and appreciates that returning with IOM allowed him to travel as a regular passenger to his home country. He visited the IOM office in Oslo and was provided with information and assistance in order to organize his return. IOM accompanied him to the Sri Lankan Embassy and assisted him in getting the necessary documents for travel.

Upon arrival in Sri Lanka, Ruwan was met by IOM staff at the airport. He also received the equivalent of 10 000 NOK in reintegration assistance. He reports that the journey back home went according to plan without any disturbances.

Ruwan spent his reintegration assistance on treatment of a medical condition. The condition makes it difficult for him to get a job at the moment. His family supports him and they have a small business that helps him and his two children to cope in a challenging situation. He is determined to do his best to manage and build a future for himself and his children. Ruwan is happy to be back with his family and relatives.

Sri Lankan home

"I appreciate that returning with IOM allowed me to travel as a regular passenger."

Fah survives trafficking and becomes her own boss

Fah is a 22-year-old woman from Thailand who was offered a restaurant job by a couple in Norway.  She moved from her kids and family, hoping to make money and gain experience in Europe. On her first day she realized that she had been deceived. The couple were traffickers. She had been in Norway for only 20 days when she decided to escape. She called the Thai Embassy who contacted the police to rescue her.

After a court case, she returned home. Her happiest moment was when she arrived in Thailand and was able to see her children. Her experience taught her that you should listen to and consult with family and friends who care about you and that not everyone can be trusted.

She has now opened two food stalls at a food court and is going back to finish her high school degree. Next year, she would like to open one more food stall and in five years, she hopes to build her own house in the north of Thailand.

Siriporn aka Fah food stall close up.jpg

"I am opening two food stalls at the food center and going back to finish high school."

Oleksandr, the entrepreneur

"I chose to leave Ukraine due to the unstable military and security situation. It was not my decision to go to Norway, and I was only in Norway about two months before I chose to return because my parents insisted that I come back. When I left Ukraine, I was studying computer technology but hadn’t finished my degree. When I decided to return, my plan was to resume my studies.


I chose to return home with the help of IOM. I am still adapting to being home. My previous challenge regarding my personal security situation is slightly improved but it could change at any time if there is political upheaval. I have now started working as a private entrepreneur, producing ceramic tiles, and will see how things develop in my country."

The Motherland Monument in Kiev Ukraine
Oleg is making new plans

"I chose to leave my country due to persecution. Going to Norway was a random choice.

Unfortunately, my asylum application was rejected and instead of facing deportation, I decided to return voluntarily. Now, I am not living where I thought I would, due to personal security concerns. I am renting a flat and still haven’t found work. It hasn’t been such a positive experience to return since I have limited possibilities to socialize. Also, it’s challenging to live outside of normal conditions. I have no stability. The plans I had for returning when I was still in Norway fell through and unfortunately, everything went very differently than I had planned."

Man on street in Lviv Ukraine
Vadim hopes for a better life

"I am married with children and have a Master’s degree. I worked in law enforcement but retired early due to disability. I left Ukraine because of my political views. I came to Poland first and then to Norway in the hopes of finding security for my family. Norway is a great country and the climate is very good. I prefer Scandinavian countries because of the climate, but the attitude of Norwegians is very poor.

I sent whatever money I saved home to my family and could not afford to travel home. My lawyer told me about IOM and the voluntary return programme. Before I returned, IOM gave me very detailed instructions on my return and even photos of IOM staff to meet at the airport. My experience with IOM was very good.

I get a pension but would like to work again.  IOM’s grant greatly helped us.  We paid off loans and medical bills. Still, I don’t feel secure and do not live at home. Life in Ukraine is difficult and expensive, especially for medicine which is not easily available. I may leave again depending on the situation in Ukraine, and hope to have a better life and perhaps legal status somewhere abroad."

Ukrainian folk figurines

"Only you can decide if you want to return."


"I was out of Viet Nam for eight years. I had left my home country for a long time and had no real information about what was going on Viet Nam. I was told that the job opportunities in Norway were better. I could not work and the allowance from the reception centre was not sufficient, so I wanted to return. I had no passport and I heard from the Vietnamese community in Oslo that I would be supported by IOM to return. 

My life was easier in Norway, but not good. It is difficult to earn living at home because I have been away for so long time. If I had a good income, life at home would be better. It’s also a bit difficult when I am married. I have a relative who calls me to do welding work for him. He acts as sub-contractor of metal work for projects. Depending on the size of the project, he will recruit two to four people to work for him. This current project is small so he uses only two of us. We are all relatives. I usually have work for 15 days a month. I also support my mother in rice cultivation.

The income from my work was OK when I was single. My wife is pregnant now and she has to stay at home without working and has no income. My income is not sufficient for the two of us. We stay with my mom and she supports us.

I have no complaints about IOM. The programme is very good. Thank you so much. If you are thinking about returning, it depends on the condition of each person. It is better to return if you do not have job security in Norway. However, it is also very difficult to find a job if you have left your home country for a long time."

Van Y gets a new family
Vietnamese folk figurines

"It is very difficult to find a job if you have left your home country for a long time."


Photo: Bernard Gagnon

Masii faced deadline and decided to return

"I was in Norway for two years. I travelled to Norway because of human rights. My life in Norway was good, but I had no way to get a job and no way to get any social services. I was given a deadline to travel out of Norway and if I didn’t, I would lose a big part of my return grant. It helped me make up my mind that it was time to go.

I found out about IOM when I first arrived in Norway through a government program upon arrival. They talked about IOM and the possibility of returning with IOM if my asylum claim was rejected. The reintegration grant helped greatly. A good portion of it went to my parents and for housing.


I work in sales now and did not have many difficulties when I returned home. My life in Norway was perhaps a bit better. My friends and family have helped me. I had enough information before I returned about the situation in Yemen.

I plan on continuing my education and developing myself. I am unsure if I want to live and work abroad again, but I know I am happy to be home. If services and legal status is not provided, do not waste your time and return home. If you are unable to settle in, then my advice is to go to IOM and ask them to help you to return. If you are with IOM, you do not need to worry."

Cactus from Yemen

"Everything possible was provided by IOM."

International Organization for Migration (IOM)

Office: Skippergata 33, 4nd floor, 0154 Oslo, Norway

Post: Pb 8927 Youngstorget, 0028 Oslo, Norway

Opening hours: Monday - Friday, 10:00-15:00

Telephone: (+47) 23 10 53 20  |  Fax: (+47) 23 10 53 23

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