The moment was overwhelming. Abdelmonaam burst into tears at the sound of his family’s voices as he disembarked from the airplane in Tunis. He had not held them in twenty years.
As the family’s sole breadwinner, Abdelmonaam left his home in Tunisia in 2001 to find a job that would allow him to support his parents and siblings in Tunisia. He worked as a seaman on a cargo ship until he was too old to meet the challenges of his job. He then settled in Greece, one of the countries he had come to know well through his travels on the cargo ship. Building on the skills he had developed in Tunisia as a blacksmith, Abdelmonaam worked at various, mostly construction, jobs to earn daily wages to support his family back home.
Two years ago, Abdelmonaam lost his vision due to a medical condition. He was unable to continue working and wanted to return to Tunisia for his family to take care of him. He contacted the Embassy of Tunisia to enquire about assistance to return home and the embassy provided him with information about IOM Greece’s assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) programme.
IOM supported Abdelmonaam in the operational procedures for his return and an IOM medical escort accompanied him on his trip from Athens to Tunis. “I am grateful to IOM Greece for assisting me to return home with dignity”, Abdelmonaam said at the airport surrounded by his family.
As part of the personalized reintegration plan that Abdelmonaam and IOM reintegration counsellors developed with the support of IOM medical experts and cultural mediators, Abdelmonaam also receives medical assistance that allows him to have eye surgery in Tunis that will restore his eyesight.
“I am looking forward to undergoing the eye surgery provided through my reintegration grant. I will be able to see, work and function again in my home country”, Abdelmonaam said with optimism.
The implementation of assisted voluntary returns including reintegration measures and operation of Open Center in the Prefecture of Attica for applicants of voluntary return (AVRR/OCAVRR) project is co-funded 75% by European Funds (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund) and 25% by National Funds.