Migrant returnee Khadeejah Shaeban has come full circle – and she seems to relish in that detail. In March she fulfilled a once-off order to supply the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa with bags. This was three years since the 52-year-old returned to Sudan from Libya, with support from the same programme.

Soon after her arrival in Sudan, Khadeejah was offered reintegration support, which allowed her to re-establish her livelihood. She opted for assistance in setting up a tailoring shop – which is where she made the bags.

Reusable and light, they were given to migrants in transit who used them to carry their documents, among other things. The bags were branded, thus allowing IOM staff to easily identify migrant returnees at the point of arrival, where they could be assisted.

Relating her journey back to Sudan, Khadeejah said when her husband passed away in Libya at the height of the internal upheavals, her life suffered the same fate and she made the decision  to return to Sudan. "I have five kids. Initially, I came back with three of them at my own cost, to assess the situation in Sudan. Luckily, my kids got along well and liked it here, so I decided to go back to Libya and to bring back those who were still in Libya.”

What set the ball rolling was when Khadeejah went the Sudanese embassy to ask for support in taking all her kids back to Sudan. It was embassy staff who introduced the family to IOM, to whom Khadeejah subsequently submitted the family’s documents. A week later they were provided with details of scheduled flight to Sudan.

Upon their arrival in Khartoum, IOM staff received the family at the airport and assisted them with onward transportation to Khadeeja’s home area, their final destination. But this was only the beginning of their time in Sudan.

“It wasn’t easy to reestablish my life in Sudan, yet with the reintegration support I was provided, I was able to open a sewing shop for women's clothes,” Khadeejah explained. “The support provided me with the capital to purchase a sewing machine, fabric, string, and other things I needed for the shop.”

Khadeejah’s previous knowledge proved to be her biggest asset, and with assistance from her eldest son, she began designing clothes as well.

“Our shop was received very well by the community, and customers started coming from different areas, even places far from my shop,” Khadeejah says. She ascribed this to word of mouth publicity she received from a satisfied clientelle. “Seeing my family pick itself up and support each other, made me thankful of what I have,” she said.

Regarding the contract to supply the bags to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, she said: “I was glad when I got the contract, and when I knew that the bags I made assisted IOM-supported return migrants to their countries of origin, I was happy to know that I contributed to uniting families." 

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative

Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the programme 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 goal of ensuring migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.