“My family and friends influenced my decision. I thought that I would easily reach Europe, make money, and guarantee a better life for my four daughters. I was wrong,” says Ghailan, a 35-year-old Moroccan man following his return from Greece.

After speaking with people who had successfully crossed the Greek-Turkish border and made it to Western Europe, Ghailan traveled to Istanbul, Turkey with his friend to try to cross into Greece.

“I sold my motorcycle, borrowed some more money from members of my extended family and flew to Turkey,” recalls Ghailan.

Once he arrived in Turkey, Ghailan tried to find a short-term job to save more money for the rest of the journey. “I do not speak Turkish so I could not find a job in the country,” he says. “I didn’t have enough money, so I had to find a way to continue the trip.”

While in Istanbul, Ghailan met a group of young Moroccan people who came to Turkey for the same purpose and agreed to cross the Greek-Turkish border together.

“We walked for many days with little food and water. We had to go through forests and mountains in order not to be spotted by the Turkish or the Greek border guards,” says Ghailan.

Together with the other Moroccan migrants, Ghailan managed to cross into Greece, but he ended living in squalid conditions.

“In Greece, I stayed in the city of Thessaloniki. Life was difficult there,” he explains. “I had no money, I could not contact my family and for the first time in my life, I slept in a sleeping bag for several weeks.”

Three months later, Ghailan lost hope in the journey and decided to return home to reunite with his family. He travelled from Thessaloniki to Athens by bus and reached out to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for support.

Through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) Programme, Ghailan was assisted to return home voluntarily and safely. Prior to departure, he benefited from vulnerability screening, medical assessment and fit for travel check-ups and he was provided with pocket money.

Talking about his feelings when he arrived home, he says: “I was touched by the warm welcome of my family since I was worried that they would be disappointed as I returned with empty pockets, but on the contrary, they were relieved that I was in good shape.”

To facilitate his sustainable reintegration and allow him to start a new life in Morocco, Ghailan was offered reintegration assistance. Based on his needs, he was provided with a motorcycle and benefited from other IOM services. Now, he is back to work as a street vendor and is able to provide for himself and his family.

Ghailan was able to build a new life and reintegrate socially and economically thanks to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in North Africa.

Launched in December 2016, with support from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, the EU and IOM around the shared goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.