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Migrants: increasing numbers return home thanks to Assisted Voluntary Returns

Migrants who fail to integrate in Italy, or those in difficulty for other reasons, can avail themselves of Assisted Voluntary Returns funded by the Migration and Integration Asylum Fund. In six years approximately 4000 people have returned to their home Countries while 3000 – by March 2018 – will be helped with financial contributions and customized forms of assistance. The experience of the Italian Refugee Council – CIR – whose “Third Return Integration” project is providing assistance to 270 people. Stories of success within a growing trend

Arrivals and returns among migrants in Italy. In fact, for some time already, as a result of the economic and job crisis, many long-standing migrant residents in Italy have decided to pack their suitcases are go back home. Some 200 thousand people are no longer listed in the national population register. Those lacking the financial means to start a new life in their Countries of origin can avail themselves of European programs launched a few years ago that fund so-called “assisted voluntary returns”, i.e., helping reintegration into social and economic life through financial contributions and customized support. In six years, from 2009 to 2014, 3919 people left Italy thanks to the European Return Fund. After a few years’ block the EU funded a new Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF 2014-2020), for 3,000 people, for the period June 2016 – March 2018, within a number of assisted voluntary return programs. Among the organisms involved in this action figures the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR): the “Third Return Integration” project has been assisting 270 citizens from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal. In the past it provided assistance to 101 people.

The assisted voluntary returns trend is increasing, in line with the general trend to leave Italy.

A useful tool for those who fail integration. “The novelty of this new tool – explained Valeria Carlini, press officer and coordinator of the “Return integration” project – is to provide assistance even to those who are denied asylum or protection, as well as to illegal migrants. These groups experience the greatest difficulties, thus voluntary returns are bound to become a useful tool in support of those who fail to complete the path of integration they had been seeking.” Moreover, she added, “if performed correctly, assisted voluntary returns constitute a form of aid to the development of the Countries of origin.”

Local associations and communities register those eligible to availing themselves of this tool. The program provides guidance services, social and legal assistance in CIR offices in Rome and Milan, assistance for the organization of the journey along with a 400-Euro grant per person for basic needs.

Project for the reintegration in Countries of origin are carried out in partnership with non-governmental organizations (CIR operates in conjunction with Oxfam, CISP, ProgettoMondo-Mlal). Individuals or heads of families are granted 1,600 Euros in goods and services, plus 800 Euros for each adult family member and EUR 480 for each minor. How to avoid the risk of someone not in need taking advantage of this economic opportunity? “Those who choose this path must leave their residence permits at the border – Carlini said -. It ‘a definitive decision: deciding to go back to Italy after two months is out of the question. ”

Stories of success: the para-pharmacy of the Peruvian couple. Among the successful cases, many of which have been collected in a report, figures the experience of a young Peruvian couple, aged 40-50 years old, both healthcare workers. Manuel (their names are fictional) arrived in Italy in 2009 for job reasons. Peruvian recruitment agencies had lent him money for travel, board, accommodation and Italian-language courses. The investment was to be returned with the first incomes. He immediately found a job as a medical clinic nurse in Cagliari, then in a Home for the Disabled in the city of Como. Manuel immediately learned Italian and acquired new professional skills. Maria arrived in Italy a year later. She worked in an old-age Home in Padua and in a number of hospitals. But owing to the economic crisis in the past years she couldn’t find a job. The couple thus had no option but to occupy a vacant social housing unit, where they lived with their two daughters. The only support they received was from the Food Bank and Caritas. At the beginning she managed to send money to family members who had remained home. But the opposite occurred. Life got harder in Italy, so they decided to return to their home Country to ensure a better future to their children, who are under two years old. Their dream of opening a healthcare business in their hometown, Juliaca, soon came true. They arrived in Peru in May 2016 and managed to start up a parapharmacy with private healthcare services, a few blocks away from home.

A new life in Ghana at 68. John, 68, arrived from Ghana in 2007, where he left his wife and five children. When he was registered for the project he was already tired of living in Italy, with no future prospects and too distant from his dear ones. His years in Italy had been very hard and he was experiencing serious economic difficulties. He wanted to return to his Country of origin to reunite with his family and contribute to their wellbeing. He dreamt of running a second-hand clothes shop with his wife in Ghana. She looked forward to being with him and restart a new part of their life together. On May 22 2015 John happily re-embraced his family. He now runs a retail shop with his wife in Kumasi, in which also his children are involved, to guarantee their long-term future. The financial contribution granted through the project was used to purchase the items for sale and to cover transport costs from Accra to Kumasi. The presence of a solid family network was critical to the success of the project.

Return to Ecuador, fleeing from a violent partner. There are also many stories of vulnerability, like the one of Imelda, who arrived in Italy in 2009 leaving two children in Ecuador. She worked as a caregiver, worker, cleaner, waitress, cook in a restaurant. She also found a new partner with whom she had a child. But sadly the man turned out to be violent and Imelda ended up in hospital several times before managing to break away from him. Her economic condition suddenly grew worse. She lost her job and could no longer afford to pay the rent and her son’s kindergarten. She availed herself of the project to return home. Once in Ecuador, after having overcome integration difficulties, mainly due to the lack of a supportive family network, she finally settled down in a new home with her three children. She set up a homemade food and drinks business and now all her children attend the public school.

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