Reintegration: challenges in countries of origin

Caritas International Belgium Reintegration: challenges in countries of origin

© Sofie De Mot

© Sofie De Mot

29/03/2019

High expectations, limited resources, children who find themselves in an unknown country… After a long or short stay in Belgium, returning to one’s country of origin can be full of challenges. This week, we had the opportunity to discuss with our partners from Cameroon, Morocco, and Chechnya. The following is a look back on this moment of shared experience.

Obstacles that are encountered after returning to one’s country of origin differ not only depending on the country itself, but also on the personal situation of the returner. Those with specific needs need a bit more help than others. Caritas provides this help with the assistance of the European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF)[1].

Returning empty-handed

“In Morocco, we often think that someone who has lived in Europe will return with a lot of money and many opportunities,” explains Zineb Bousalem, our reintegration partner in Morocco. “It is difficult to return when you don’t have anything left, which is the situation that those we help find themselves in. They have generally lived for a long time in Belgium in vulnerable situations, for example, on the streets.”

“After a long stay, they may not be familiar with the current situation in Morocco, be scared to face their families, or have health problems,” continues Zineb. “That’s why we offer targeted and specific care. We visit them at home or elsewhere to evaluate their overall situation. We examine how their family has reacted to their return, if they have the means to make ends meet, etc.”

During the first months, it’s essential to closely follow those who have returned. But before their return, in Belgium, it is important to correctly inform the candidate about the realities in their country of origin in order to set their expectations and allow for a dignified return. Strong family relationships, for example, have an enormous impact on reintegration.

Hope for women in Cameroon

“In Cameroon, we have a saying: He who travels becomes rich,” says Dallé Biack. This saying underscores the difficulty of reintegration in Cameroon. “Those who return have often learned a lot but lack the financial resources to leverage the knowledge they’ve acquired.” This is particularly difficult for women, who are one of the groups specifically targeted by the AMIF.

Cameroonian women organize small-scale businesses but often lack structure and make little money. “Also, the economic environment is not very good,” explains Dallé. “Studies show that only 25% of businesses in Cameroon last more than 4 years.”

“The objective now is to better develop and support these businesses so that they can last. Through hair and beauty salons, taxis, and agricultural projects, women seek to come together and carry out collective projects. This gives them hope of a more stable income,” says Dallé.

Adapting to an unknown homeland

The target audience of our partner organization in Chechnya is families with children. After a long stay in Belgium, these children encounter difficulties with the language of their country of origin and are generally in need of psychological support. They are not always involved in the choice to reintegrate and may encounter difficulties settling into a country that is completely new and foreign to them.

Our partner organization provides them with educational support so that the children can continue going to school despite not knowing the language. Nevertheless, for large families, for example a family with four children that each have different levels, it is not always logistically possible to offer individual lessons. “We see that parents place a high value on education,” says our partner in Chechnya. “This becomes clear, for example, if you look at the large number of children who are signed up for our summer camps, where we don’t face any logistical obstacles.”

Return to a traditional society

“We organize creative sessions with a psychologist for children to talk about their feelings,” says our partner in Chechnya. “We have boys who are very interested in participating, but their fathers tell them they’re not manly enough. We explain to the boys that participating in the sessions is helpful. Psychological support is one of the most important aspects for children’s successful reintegration.”

“It is often difficult for children to return to a more traditional society. For example, girls are expected to stay at home and do housework. They accept their situation because they don’t see any alternatives.”

Caritas and its partner organizations support those who opt for voluntary return through all of the difficulties that can arise during the process. We prepare those in Belgium for the difficult reality that could await them. If they decide they’re not ready, they can always change their minds. The voluntary aspect of their return is essential and is at the heart of our support.

Footnote :

1

More information about the AMIF can be found on the European Union’s website.

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