Former migrant worker Fakhreldeen is among returnees who received support in Sudan, allowing him to start a business.
The fact that such assistance from the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa came in the form of cash worked to his advantage. Sudan is in the throes of a liquidity crunch hence cash is in short supply. Yet the convenience of cash is unquestionable, especially since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it gives beneficiaries greater autonomy.
“Receiving cash gave me the flexibility to add more money and buy a tuk-tuk to use for transportation work,” says the 45-year-old.
With the reintegration assistance grant and further support from his family, he raised the capital needed for the three-wheeler. “The work with the tuk-tuk provides me an income,” Fakhreldeen adds.
Sudan presents a complex and diverse migration profile as a source, transit and destination country at the centre of multiple migration routes. It is home to around 1.4 million migrants from the region, aside from returning nationals, like Fakhreldeen.
Fakhreldeen spent more than a year in Libya before the conflict prompted him to return at the end of 2019. He was supported by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, which facilitated his Voluntary Humanitarian Return to Sudan. The programme is also assisting him to get back on his feet.
“Alhamdulilah, I’m now with my family; my son is young, and he studies hard for school and I’m grateful to be part of that,” Fakhreldeen says.
Since the EU-IOM Joint Initiative’s inception in March 2017, it has assisted 2,688 migrant returnees like Fakhreldeen to return to Sudan. The majority of them have also received integration support. As of 30 July 2020, 1,645 (62%) have started while 1,261 (47%) had completed the reintegration process. The programme has also assisted 838 migrants in Sudan to return to their countries of origin.
Sudanese nationals assisted to return under the programme first undergo a vulnerability assessment, and are also signed up for National Health Insurance. Based on their vulnerabilities identified and unique needs, the returnees are provided with psychosocial screening and counseling, transportation to their hometowns and housing immediately upon return.
This process is followed by individual reintegration counseling to guide further reintegration support. This may include support to establish a micro-business, to enrol in a vocational training programme, to cover education costs for children or to receive psychosocial counseling.
Fakhreldeen opted to get into business and received cash assistance. Until recently, such support in Sudan was provided in-kind in partnership with mobile communications company MTN.
Since March 2020 MTN’s sell points are also used to facilitate the transfer of cash payments. Unlike commercial banks, MTN has a wider coverage through its network of agents who can provide the cash without the returnees having to join long queues.
Returnees have found the cash option to be convenient while for the programme staff it is more efficient and faster to render assistance with simpler administrative procedures. However, the cash option is not a solution to all as some returnees do not have the required identity documents or experience network issues.
Yet the fact that the cash option coincided with the onset of Covid-19 pandemic presented both an advantage and a disadvantage – it gave beneficiaries more control, and reduced the infection risks through limited exposure for the beneficiaries and staff like. But the disbursement process was slowed by the imperative of officials having to work from home.
According to Andrew Gray, head of the Migration Management and Development Unit at IOM Sudan: “The cash-based intervention is effective and allows returnees to live with greater dignity by preserving their ability to spend money and make decisions regarding their priority needs, while also ensuring that returnees have resources available to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, make their own choices and stimulate the local economy in the areas of return.”
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.