JG - Dignified homecoming – IOM helps ‘irregular’ migrant
Dignified homecoming – IOM helps ‘irregular’ migrant
published: Sunday July 22, 2007
Miss Ghad very high hopes for a life in England completely different from the 32 years she spent living in a violence-prone community in Spanish Town. At th of rising political tensions, she fled her home in 2001 and sought refuge with an uncle, a first-generation migrant living in Belham, England.
All was well and good when she arrived in England, hoping to find a nursemaid job, which would pay her enough to send money back home for her three children left in the care of relatives. Within a few weeks, she tells The Sunday Gleaner, hospitality gave way to resentment, and she was no longer welcome.
“At first, it was lovely and they said they would help, but after a while when I could not get any job, nobody cared. I moved out and started moving around,” says Miss G, in heavily accented English.
A “wrong” move, she concedes, and it was not long before she had a baby. “I decided it was time to go home. I had no status, no job and it was very hard to survive,” she relates.
The purpose of the IOM
With no real means of supporting herself and her children, Miss G, after five years, applied to the British Home Office for asylum. Her application was twice denied, and instead of appealing, she told them she was ready to return to Jamaica. She had no airfare and needed help. The Home Office referred her to The International Office of Migration (IOM), London.
The IOM is an international non-governmental organisation with over 100 offices worldwide. It is set up to assist ‘irregular’ migrants – asylum seekers and detainees for minor offences – resettle and re-integrate in their home country.
“It was frightening, stepping into the IOM. I did not know what to expect. I was fretting that the police would come and hold me. I could not believe them when they offered to pay my airfare. I was processed in a matter of weeks. When I was leaving, the IOM gave me £1,000 to come home with – more than I had expected.”
Although Miss G has returned to the same community from which she fled, she is not branded a deportee. She has a small business and is buying a car. “The IOM is helping me to get the car, which I will use to run a taxi. Then I want to move from the community where I am living and go back to school,” she says, with much optimism.
Like Miss G, Karlene spent 11 years as an irregular migrant in London. Thirty-six years old, she has three children and resides in rural St Andrew. But, unlike Miss G, she did not leave Jamaica because of political violence; she went to visit relatives, fell in love with England, got a job and decided to stay.
“I was back and forth all the time, but when I got a job in a Caribbean restaurant, I did not want to leave. Things were a bit all right, and then I lost the job,” she tells The Sunday Gleaner.
Karlene began to feel “uneasy” and after being detained for a minor offence, decided to return to Jamaica. “I got an IOM application form, and that’s where my journey home began,” she says from her place of business in one of the clothing arcades in downtown Kingston.
She got help through the IOM to buy and sell clothes, and to buy a car, to travel to various towns in Jamaica to do business. “Life is better now. I am more relaxed, and can take care of my children. A little later, I will think about going back to school,” she says.
Not real names.