Alfred and his wife, Immaculata
Alfred and Immaculata are a couple from Kenya who have been living in Greece for a number of years now. The financial crisis that has hit Greece since 2009 and the high unemployment rates means that finding a job got more and more difficult for economic migrants and locals alike. After the arrival of their baby boy, only a few months ago, the couple decided to apply for the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme (AVVR), implemented by IOM Greece.
“My sister used to live in Greece, she’s a nun, and through her I learnt many things about the country and I decided to settle in Athens about 5 years ago. Alfred joined me a couple of years later”, says Immaculata. “I lived in Nairobi with my older son and worked in a beauty salon. I came here in Greece hoping to get a job and provide for my family back to Kenya. I thought it would be different from Africa, a change for the best. So, I left my son with my mother and moved here. At first, it was really difficult to find work. It took me more than a year to finally get a job as a live-in nanny”.
“I used to be a lorry driver in Nairobi, for a transport company. When I arrived here, I found a job in Mykonos, in a hotel. It was a good place. I’d welcome the guests, take them to the airport and occasionally guide them around” says Alfred. “But, things are becoming harder and harder in Greece. We have to pay for all sorts of things but we cannot get a job, the stability that we need. Even buying basic items is a problem. And now that the baby came, we have so many more needs”.
“It’s not easy with the baby, I cannot stay with him because I have to work in a live-in job. But how can I leave my baby to go and live with another family? He’s really young, he needs me, I’ ll be punishing him. I have to breastfeed him, he gets sick. I have no family here to help me and I cannot afford a babysitter”, Immaculata explains.
“So, we have decided to go back to Kenya”, Alfred continues. “We found out about the AVRR programme through some acquaintances and we googled it. And so here we are today, waiting for the moment to take the plane back to our homeland”.
“And you know, my older boy in Kenya needs me, too. My mother takes care of him but he feels lonely, he often tells me ‘I’m not happy, I want you to come home’. He’s 17 now”, Immaculata says. “However, other members of my family cannot believe we want to go back, they say ‘no, stay there, don’t come back to Kenya’. But, when one lives in Africa, even when told that the situation in Greece is not good, they don’t seem to understand it. They don’t get how hard it is here, they don’t have the first-hand experience, they cannot compare. Many of our Greek friends are also suffering under the financial crisis, some of them are planning to migrate to America”.
“We will be given some assistance by IOM to start again in Kenya, so I hope to buy a used pick-up truck and start my own transport business, be independent and provide for Immaculata and the boys. And it’s always nice to be home” says Alfred, smiling.
The project "The implementation of Assisted Voluntary Returns including Reintegration measures" (AVRR) is co-funded 75% by Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and 25% by Greek Ministry of Interior.