“If you have a job and a family there’s no reason to go abroad in search of a better life. No one’s waiting for you over there”. So says Elvin Huseynov, 36, who recently returned to Azerbaijan following a disappointing spell in Europe.
His countryman Ilahi Islamov, 31, agrees. While Elvin moved purely for work, Ilahi and his family lost their home during the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the 1990s. “I was a refugee since I was a kid,” he says.
What unites them, apart from their failed overseas migration experience, is that both are among the 100 or so people to have benefited form IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) projects.
Both are also working with livestock, Ilahi with sheep and Elvin with cattle, purchased with a grant from IOM.
In 2014 Ilahi, newly married, moved to Germany in 2014.
“I was going to work as a cook in a restaurant. I had experience in this area. Unfortunately, I could not get an official work permit. So, I worked where I could, lived there for several years, and two of my children were born there”.
He hoped he could formalize his status and stay forever but when large numbers of refugees from Syria arrived, Ilahi says the Government paid his case less attention, so he moved to the Netherlands.
"But in the new country I failed to get a well-paid job, and I did not see any prospects for myself,” noted Ilahi. Not long after this he contacted IOM and applied for voluntary return assistance.
He was helped to submit a preliminary business plan to be considered for reintegration assistance. “Before the war my family were farmers, so it was natural for me to use my reintegration grant to purchase 32 sheep”.
In 2019 Elvin took his family to France, chasing the dream of a better life. He pinned his hopes on friends who promised him to find a job. "For some time, I was repairing houses, with a team. It was enough for life. The children went to kindergarten," recalls Elvin. But as work dried up the family had to move, like Ilahi to the Netherlands.
They ended up in a refugee camp. “Things didn’t go as I wanted, and besides, I began to miss my relatives. When I received information about the AVRR project implemented by IOM I decided it’s the best option to return home,” he says.
Elvin bought 10 cattle with IOM’s help and is now in business with his brother.
IOM Azerbaijan currently provides its assistance activities for returnees from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Finland, Turkey, and Latvia. The main part of reintegration assistance provided by IOM Azerbaijan is assistance to returnees through income-generating. In addition, returnees are also assisted in housing, medical needs, and tuition. This assistance is intended for people who voluntarily returned to Azerbaijan to ensure their reintegration in society.