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Emergency Trust Fund for Africa
News article22 December 2020

He walked for many days chasing the European dream: Zakaria's story


Unable to support his family and provide for himself, Zakaria (23) embarked upon a journey to Greece through Turkey hoping to build a better life in Europe but now, he is back to Morocco doing business.

Prior to his departure, Zakaria used to work as a receptionist in a luxurious hotel in Marrakech but he was not happy with the working conditions there.“I studied very hard to get the job and I left my family home to settle in Marrakech, but the salary was not enough”, he explained. “I had to send money back home and pay for my daily expenses, which left me little or no money at all.” “When I started seeing how happy young European people are when they were coming to the hotel, the dream of going to Europe started to grow fast. I resigned and decided to travel to Turkey,” Zakaria said. After convincing his parents of the plans that he had in mind, Zakaria flew to Istanbul. “Before deciding to go to Turkey, I asked a few people and did some research to learn about the best and easiest roads to Europe”, he explained. From Istanbul, he travelled to another coastal city where he found a temporary job in a Spanish restaurant thanks to his educational background, past work experiences, and language skills.“I worked in the restaurant for three months to collect more money for my journey. Before the end of my legal stay in Turkey [90 days for Moroccan citizens], I asked my employer for support to get a work permit, but he refused,” Zakaria recalled.

Five days before the end of his 90-day legal stay in Turkey, Zakaria travelled back to Istanbul. Then he took a train to the Turkish-Greek border where he met three Algerian people who had similar plans. They accepted him to join the group.
“We spent the night in a hotel near the border and the following day, we bought food and flashlights and headed towards the Turkish-Greek border during the night”, he recalled.
“We walked for 17 nights in a row, we slept during the day and walked during the night until we reached the Greek city Thessaloniki. It was a very difficult and tiring trip. I could not communicate with my family and they thought I died.”

Once in Greece, Zakaria encountered so many challenges. “I sued to sleep in the streets plus my mother had some health problems, so I decided to return to Morocco,” he said.
Having no means to return home, Zakaria contacted the office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Greece and was assisted to voluntarily return to Morocco through the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme.
Upon his arrival in Morocco, Zakaria attended several counselling and mentorship sessions organized by IOM and was provided with in-kind reintegration assistance to set up a sheep farming business in the rural area of Beni Mellal where breeding is common.

His reintegration was facilitated through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in North Africa, launched in December 2016 with funding from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF). It is the first comprehensive programme of its kind to save lives, protect and assist migrants along key migration routes in Africa.
The programme covers and promotes close cooperation among 26 African countries in the Sahel, Lake Chad, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa regions.

“Although it is difficult to accept the fact that I failed to achieve my dream after my return to Morocco, IOM's reintegration assistance enabled me to have a source of income once again and to help my family. Thankfully, my mother has recovered, and she is now doing well.” Zakaria is one of the Moroccan returnees who have been supported towards a sustainable reintegration under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative since the beginning of the program in June 2019.


Publication date
22 December 2020
Region and Country
Improved migration management

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