Reintegration/ Settlement of Returnees
It is estimated that more than half of the population in Ghana is under 30 years old. Unemployment is a national burden, a result, some Ghanaian youth choose to migrate to other countries in search of greener pastures and better life conditions. Unfortunately, a number of the migrants especially from the middle belt, travel through illegal means, and in the process endanger or lose their lives. Ghana does not always get the accurate information regarding people travelling in and out the country, since some of them go through illegal means.
According to Attivu, “he had an aspiration of travelling to make life easier and get to send something back home. However, when he got to his destination (Italy) he realized living there was very tough and the job he had was basically “hand to mouth” and this was not able to cater for his family of five (5). Although, he stayed there for a period of 8 years working as a mason”.
Rabbi; “I was working way back in Ghana. In my quest to reach Italy I travelled through the desert and then by sea to Italy, where a rescue team came for us. On our arrival in Italy, it was difficult to get a job hence ended my return to Ghana” (Interview, 2017).
Reports indicates that about 400,000 African immigrants and refugees from 2014 have crossed the Mediterranean from Lybia to Italy. Illegal immigration is one of the problems Europe is facing. The numbers of illegal immigrants increase from year to year. Italy has become the central point for these illegal immigrants. Through our interactions with these immigrants, we realized that most of them upon reaching Italy travel further to other European countries, America and the UK.
Due to this, the pressure of illegal immigration on Italy is great. Lampedusa for example has become a target for people smugglers who send desperate immigrants on dangerous boats towards the island. There have been times, when this island that used to be tourist gem, has hosted more illegal immigrants than citizens.
According to Attivu;
“I left Libya in 2015 by sea to Italy. Although I didn’t know anybody there I decided to take an adventure to make life easier. I arrived in Sicily (Italy) by boat. I was then integrated into a camp for three months for my documents to be processed as a refugee. I later on left to Germany when my three month stay expired. I stayed in Germany for a year with no work. I later then went back to Italy to get access to documents to enable me to work. This however also proved futile. In all, the aspiration I had to travel to make things better for me in life couldn’t be realized (Interview, 2017).”
The European Commission and the Italian Interior Ministry launched an initiative aimed at with the aim of encouraging Third World Country Nationals (TCNs) in difficult situations to voluntarily accept and return to their country of origin with the promise of giving them some financial aid to pay for their travels and also assist their reintegration back home. This programme is called Integrazione di Ritorno Prog. 102539 in English ‘Voluntary Assisted Return’.
In order to execute this programme Amicus Onlus was selected as a local partner in Ghana to cater for those Ghanaians from Italy who choose to be part of the programme.
As part of our activities to successfully settle returnees, we conduct background checks on all returnees in order to understand family climate each returnee is returning to. Also, returnees while abroad and going through the Voluntary Return process, are enlightened on the economic conditions of Ghana, to enable them freely make entrepreneurial choices, which sometimes get adjusted when the need arises. Returnees upon entering Ghana are constantly counseled and guided by staff of Amicus Ghana from a hand shake at the airport and after setting up entrepreneurial business activities.
Ghanaian returnees are scattered all over the country and we make sure to be in constant touch with each of them even after a year. This instils some level of confidence in returnees and also assist them to better settle once they are back home.
The process reintegrating returnees is a stressful process especially for the returnees and families. Amicus Onlus Ghana therefore work towards bridging the psychological and economical gap experienced by them. 80% out of 30 returnees are currently engaged in various businesses and supporting their families.
According to Yaw; ‘I haven’t regretted returning home from Italy. Currently with the assistance I got from the Voluntary Return Programme, and also through the help of Amicus Onlus, locally, I am a taxi driver and also continuing with the farm work I left behind to travel abroad. I am able to generate revenue from these two activities.’
‘The added value I got from this program was quite impressive, from the monetary assistance down to the inter-personnel skills of supervisors in Europe and especially in Ghana. It is my prayer that most of my fellow Ghanaian who are having hard times in Italy, engage in this voluntary return programme and come back home to work and assist their families. With the right counselling and guidance, we returnees from Italy especially ware able to have meaningful lives again despite the time wasted in seeking greener pasture abroad.’ According to James who owns approximately 6 acres of cocoa plantation (interview 2018).