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Iraq - Electrical appliences shop

Serbest (32), together with his then pregnant wife Shilan (28) applied for asylum in Lithuania in March 2009. 

The young Iraqi family was accommodated in the Foreigners’ Registration Centre in PabradÄ—. It is here that their son was born. Having spent more than two years in Lithuania, Serbest and Shilan came to realize that despite the ongoing processing of their asylum claims, their prospects were anything but clear. Moreover, they highly doubted whether, even if granted international protection, they would manage to establish themselves in a foreign country without even knowing the local language. Serbest and Shilan’s return decision was also influenced by other factors, namely, their wish for their son to grow up in his homeland, Shilan’s deteriorating health as well as the news from Iraq of her father’s serious illness.       


In April 2011, after receiving the necessary documents with the assistance of IOM Vilnius, the family voluntarily returned to Erbil in the north of Iraq. Upon return, however, Serbest and Shilan again found themselves in a very complicated situation: with no place of residence, they had to stay with their relatives. In addition, both Serbest – a history teacher by profession, – and Shilan had almost no previous work experience to rely on in search of employment. Shilan, for her part, also had to spend most of her time taking care of their little son. The need for reintegration assistance for the family was obvious and immediate.


In view of the local context as well as the needs of the returnees, a small family business seemed to be the most viable reintegration option. Serbest and Shilan decided to open an electrical appliances shop: having rented the premises, they were assisted by IOM to purchase the goods necessary for the start of the business.     


Today the shop – almost the only one of the kind in Rwanduz village close to Erbil – is running successfully. During the reintegration monitoring, Serbest, who is in charge of the business in accordance with his wife’s written consent, told the IOM Iraq staff that he is very satisfied with the chosen activity which enables him to provide for his family. Nevertheless, he did mention that certain unfavourable market conditions, such as the underdeveloped business sector in the area and high prices of goods, as well as frequent requests on the part of his customers to defer payments, so far has not allowed Serbest to invest much in the expansion of his business. Nonetheless, the returnee remains optimistic: while considering a microcredit option, he is also hoping to get an extra job as a history teacher in a governmental school in the nearest future. Serbest thanked IOM for all the assistance provided to his family and said that experience had taught him that a stable source of income in ones homeland is much better than the promises of the unknown in a richer, yet foreign country.