After five years in Libya, Dotse’s return to Ghana was not what he had hoped for – an initial struggle coping with mental health issues.
“It took me a lot of effort to heal when I came back. I was disoriented when I arrived and don’t remember anything that happened,” he says. Another returnee, Lincoln, faced similar hurdles. “I felt abandoned.”
Today, things are different for both men, who are among the more than 1,800 returnees the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has supported to voluntarily return to Ghana since 2017 as part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.
Some migrants experience stigmatization, exploitation, violence, and life under inhumane conditions when they travel, especially when using irregular means, but the decision to return home is not easy. Expectations are high, and the pressure can affect their mental health, hindering successful reintegration into their communities.
“When IOM called, it gave me that psychological fitness that, yes, there’s some support,” Lincoln says. Dotse is also grateful for IOM’s help in addressing his anguish. “Thanks to the psychosocial support, I am a better person and I feel much healthier and happier.”
IOM counsels the migrants upon return to Ghana and guides them on reintegration. A comprehensive plan for returnees encompasses economic, social and psychosocial needs, and may also include identifying income-generating activities, housing, education, or training to develop business and other skills. More than 800 returnees so far have benefitted from this innovative and holistic approach.
“IOM recognizes the importance of migrants’ and returnees’ mental health in ensuring their successful and sustainable reintegration back into their communities of origin,” says Pooja Bhalla, IOM Project Manager for the EU-IOM Joint Initiative.
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