Migrants at the airport

“Once I make it home, I will tell my friends not to go like this.”

We are in a vehicle, being accompanied to the Sarajevo international airport, with eight men from India. All of them come from different districts within the same region, Kerala in the South of India. All of them showing off large smiles on their faces. Contagious smiles.

Today, as part of a group of 28 migrants from Kerala returning home to India, Jawad is chatty and anxious about finally being able to go back home. The car ride is 30 minutes long, enough just to scratch the surface of his migration journey, the Why’s and When’s, but most importantly, to understand the experience he has been through, the life-threatening situations he had to endure, without ever knowing this is what „Europe would be like".

Totally different from what he was hoping for. Miles away from what he was promised.

„What I love about Bosnia is how peaceful it is. I will miss the quiet roads. In Kerala the traffic creates an awful noise, it’s very different from here.“

Jawad has been in the Temporary Reception Centre “Blažuj” for more than a month, and when he found out about the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme from a friend, he immediately reached IOM Bosnia and Herzegovina AVRR counsellors working in Sarajevo Canton, Mia, Aleksandar, Tarik and Alisa. He made the decision to go back home, but having spent all his money on his journey, he was unable to go back home by himself.

„Arun, a friend of mine who is also traveling with me today was working as an accountant in Oman. I was working in Dubai, and when my grandmother died, I had to go back to India, stayed there for a while and decided to make my dream of living in Europe come true. All of us were deceived.

I believe I will come back, in a regular way.”

In the past six months, IOM AVRR counsellors noticed an increase of people from Kerala, India in BiH migrant reception centres.

Migrants departing TRC Blažuj

One of his friends lost his passport trying to cross Drina river, bordering BiH and Serbia, where he almost lost his life.

“Losing a passport is not a problem. Losing your life is. Once I make it home, I will tell my friends not to go like this.”

Safe and dignified return and sustainable reintegration are an indispensable part of a comprehensive approach to migration management. Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) program aims to support migrants who are unable or unwilling to remain in host or transit countries and wish to return to their countries of origin. The main beneficiaries of IOM’s return and reintegration assistance are stranded migrants in host or transit countries, migrants in irregular situation, regular migrants, asylum seekers who decide not to pursue their claims or who are found not to be in need of international protection, and migrants in vulnerable situations, such as victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children, or migrants with health-related needs.

Since 2018, IOM Bosnia Herzegovina, in coordination with the BiH Service for Foreigners’ Affairs, Embassies and IOM teams in the countries of origin, supported 1275 migrants return to their homes. IOM Bosnia and Herzegovina team of counsellors provides information about the sustainable return options to migrants accommodated in temporary reception centres and those residing outside of reception facilities through individual counselling, and printed material. IOM also developed dedicated online tools and applications such as “Support for Migrants” and targeted social media campaign listing the benefits of the AVRR programme, in contrast with the risks of irregular migration. Risks to mental health, wellbeing, financial, and risks for their own lives. 

„My mother, father and brother await me. My trip back home is going to last for two days. But that's ok, this is nothing compared to the two months I spent waiting here to leave.

Two days are nothing.”

IOM AVRR staff
Migrants being provided pre-departure assistance by IOM staff