IOM Helps Iraqi Migrants Voluntarily Return Home from Belgium

Iraq - On Monday, February 1, 106 Iraqi nationals departed voluntarily from Belgium to Baghdad under IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme.

The group consisted of 93 men, 13 women and 17 children, who travelled with family members (eight families in all). The passengers arrived safely in Baghdad, where they were welcomed by IOM staff. The entire journey – from Brussels to Baghdad – went smoothly.

IOM Iraq coordinated with Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement and with authorities at Baghdad Airport to plan the flight’s arrival and reception. Onward transportation was provided for several migrants, in coordination with travel agencies, to ensure they arrived safely at their final destinations.

Once home, the returnees will benefit from reintegration assistance, which may include micro-business support, temporary accommodation, job placement and provision of essential household goods.

The AVRR program has been managed by the Belgian Government since 1984, via Fedasil – the Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum-seekers in Belgium. AVRR assistance is implemented by IOM, in close collaboration with a wide network of partners. Reintegration assistance has been provided since 2006.

IOM Chief of Mission for Belgium and Luxembourg Pascal Reyntjens said: “The AVRR assistance is a positive alternative to other types of return, engaging migrants in re-thinking their future. The reintegration support aims to facilitate sustainable returns and address the root causes of migration.”

In 2015, more than 3,000 Iraqis received assistance to return to Iraq from 14 European countries. Assisted voluntary returns from Belgium to Iraq have increased significantly since late summer 2015.

Of 3,870 people who voluntarily returned from Belgium in 2015, 1,014 returned to Iraq. In 2014 just 57 people returned to Iraq from Belgium. Most returned to Baghdad, but some went on to Basra and Najaf.

The average duration of stay in Belgium before returning to Iraq is about four months. Iraqi voluntary return beneficiaries are mostly young, single men aged between 20 and 45. During their application process in Belgium, most of them stayed in Fedasil and Red Cross reception facilities. Others were referred to the programme by NGOs.

Of national AVRR programmes implemented by IOM across the EU, Norway and Switzerland, returns to Iraq from Belgium are among Europe’s highest. Other European countries with a high number of Iraqi returnees include Austria, Germany, Finland and Greece. Destinations include Baghdad, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Basra.

IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Thomas Lothar Weiss noted: "IOM Iraq is pleased to facilitate this flight, in coordination with IOM Belgium and national authorities in Belgium and Iraq. It is important that Iraqis who choose to return receive the assistance needed to facilitate their reintegration. Since late 2015 requests for more assistance are increasing. IOM Iraq will continue to work in cooperation with the Government of Iraq and host governments of Iraqis abroad to provide the means for safe, sustainable assisted voluntary return."

Nour Ahmed, a mother of three young children, who spent five months in Belgium, said: “We left Iraq thinking that we could find more security for our children in Belgium. We took a dangerous migration journey. We had so much in Baghdad, but we did not have a stable situation. In Belgium we had a place to stay, but did not find the opportunities we had hoped for. We are very happy to be back in Iraq in order to restart our lives with the support of IOM.”

For further information, please contact Géraldine d’Hoop IOM Belgium and Luxembourg, Tel: +32 2 287 74 12; +32 473 281 846, Email: Or Sandra Black at IOM Iraq, Tel: +964 751 234 2550, Email: