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Kurdish returnee builds successful business after vocational training

At the age of 18, Shwan Halaq decided to migrate irregularly to Europe through a smuggler in the Iraqi city of Erbil. His friends and family told him he wouldn’t receive a Schengen visa if he applied through the official means.

His journey began in July 2015, and after four months on the road, he arrived in Norway. Two years later, Shwan returns voluntarily to Erbil after his application for refugee status was rejected three times due to lack of evidence that his life was in danger in Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

“I will turn 21 years old in two weeks. I have my own barber shop, a fiancé, money in my pocket, and food on my table,” says Shwan to one of his clients at the barber shop. “Europe is beautiful, but the winter was very cold. I couldn’t understand their language. And I used to cry every night because I missed my mother.”

After returning to Erbil in 2017, Shwan heard about a vocational training that was free of charge for returnees from Europe. He applied for the training to become a barber.

“My cousin helped me to raise the money needed to pay the rent and buy what I needed for this shop, but I have to pay him 300,000 Iraqi Dinars (230 USD) every month until I clear my debt. But in the past year, I made more money in this shop than what I would have made if I stayed in Norway,” said Shwan.

Shwan says it took him three years to realize that all the problems he had in life were in his head, “I swear to God, all of the problems I had were because I just wanted to have a better life in Europe, like the ones we see on TV,” he explained.

“But when my case was rejected and I came back, I found myself forced to do something with my life. First I was lazy to get out and find a job or seeing what the organizations are doing for people like me. It only took 4 weeks of training and now I see myself more successful than half of the guys at my age in Kurdistan. Nobody else will come to save you, you have to do it by yourself.”

TMP – 19/11/2018

Photo credit: TMP. Photo caption: Shwan while working at his barber shop