Reintegration/ Settlement of Returnees

The Predicament of James- A Returnee from Italy

He left Ghana through Libya to Italy. He stayed in Libya for a little over a year in order to earn an income and get to Italy by sea. Prior to leaving for Italy through Lybia in 2005, James had a wife with four children (3 boys and a girl). Living in Tereposo (Dunkwa-Offin), James and his family were cocoa farmers.  Cocoa farming is seasonal and the proceeds, when made, were not enough to cater for the family.

Travelling to Libya was a suicidal journey but he managed to get there. Upon getting there, the contact person he was supposed to reside with could not be found. Since James did not know anybody there and was running out of money, he started working as a cleaner to make ends meet. His initial plan was to work in Libya for six months and then continue to Italy, unfortunately he had to stay and work (despite harsh treatment from his superiors and language barriers) for a year and a couple of months before he was able to save some money for his travel.

When the day of his departure from Libya to Italy arrived, James was full of mixed feelings. Even though he hoped to have a successful crossing of the Mediterranean Sea, a look at the rubber boat he and other travelers (numbered 70), dashed his hopes. However, the monetary commitment was already made to the agent in charge of the travel processes, so there was no going back. James said ‘I prayed and asked the Lord for a safe journey to Italy.’

Whiles at sea they encountered a group of pirates who took over their rubber boat and fleeced them of their few possessions. They were all panicking because this was done at gun point by the attackers. At the end of that encounter, their Libyan guide who was supposed to assist them departed with the pirates in a speed boat. According to the guide, he job was done, because he had guided them near to the Italian sea waters. He assured them that they would be rescued and brought to shore by the Italian coast guard. ‘You can imagine the fear written on our faces since we could not ask the Libyan guide any question on why he was leaving us in the middle of the sea; for fear of being verbally and physically abused’ he narrated.

After spending hours on the sea with no food, most of the migrants were weak and sick. The strong ones had to take care of the weaker ones since they all had a common mission. After spending 2 days on the sea, on the dawn of the 3rd day, James saw a boat with some flashlights. The people on the boast communicated through a megaphone in a language he did not understand. Yet, he knew deep down that those were their rescuers (the Italian Coast Guards). Indeed, they were rescued.

In Italy, James never received any official documents until 2014 when he obtained a regular permit to stay. He worked in olive farms (harvesting) and construction sites. James managed to send some money to his family in Ghana, but he was unable to visit since he had no documents to guarantee his return to Italy.

Unfortunately, in 2016, he started experiencing some excruciating pains in his left leg that impede full mobility. Due to this illness, James could not go on with his labour intensive jobs. Staying in Italy was already difficult, but his illness made worse.

In 2018, upon hearing about the ‘Voluntary Return Programme’ being announced in the shelter where he was staying, he decided to return home. James landed in Ghana on Saturday, 28th April, 2018. James is fortunate to have a very supportive family who took care of his wife, children and also managed to expand his cocoa farm with the little money he sent home.

With the assistance of CISP, Amicus Onlus and our partners, James received funds when he returned home and has been able to invest that amount into his farm whiles going on regular clinic checkups for his illness. James is happily reunited with his family, although he could not identify his last two children and according to James ‘I will advise the young ones who have various intentions to travel abroad, rather, stay in Ghana, learn a trade, skill or continue with schooling. They are better off staying in Ghana to work and earn a living than travelling outside by all means possible. Whiles in Ghana, should a legitimate opportunity arise to travel abroad, then they can embark on it to gain experience and return home. I was fortunate to have a God-fearing family who actually invested my little money in my cocoa farm, I know a couple of my colleagues who return to worse conditions.