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Photo: © Seydou Tangara/IOM

1,224 kmfrom home
" The smugglers take advantage of our illusive hopes."
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One day, Adama, 22, decided to leave his native Mali and embark on a dangerous journey to Italy. His motive for leaving: Though his head was full of hopes and dreams, his pockets were empty,.

“I left because I wanted to help my mother and my family,” he explained. “I had to drop out of school very early because my mother could no longer take care of me and my four siblings. I started barbering. But I could not afford to open a barbershop. And I could not just make tea all day at home while waiting for customers. So, I decided to leave. I left in the hope of making money and returning home thereafter.”

Adama made the big leap. He left Gao, where he worked for a few months before moving north to Algeria.

“The smugglers take advantage of our illusive hopes. They eat with us, sleep with us, and make beautiful promises only to get our money.”

“I worked for two years in Algeria to pay the crossing,” Adama continued, sounding bitter. “I wanted to go to Italy, through Libya, at all costs. On our way, the smugglers abandoned us at sea. We were intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and sent to detention centres. The living conditions in the prisons were difficult. I saw twelve people die before my eyes.”

“I was released from prison in 2017 with the help of IOM Libya who organized my return home. IOM Mali staff welcomed us at the airport and asked us what job we could do, and they would support us. I chose hairdressing, my job. They offered me a training to improve my hairdressing skills before supporting me in opening a well-equipped shop. Today, I have my barber shop and thank God, things are okay,” he concludes.

Today, Adama’s barber shop, “Nosby Barber” — or “Nosby B”, as neighborhood kids call it — has become popular. It is always full of customers.

Work at Nosby B starts at 8 AM and ends at midnight. Welcoming as many as 15 customers every day — about one every hour — each day, Adama can save up to CFA 100,000 (150 euros) per month. It’s enough to help him support his family, including his mother, and help pay tuition and other school fees of four siblings.

“Hairdressing is what I know. Today, I have customers and equipment. I want to continue on that path. And if Allah gives me the means to do so, I plan to open several barbershops,” says Adama Koné.

“Make sure you are well-informed about the journey before you leave, because irregular migration leads to absolute desperation,” he concludes.

Adama has been able to rebuild a new life and reintegrate socially and economically thanks to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. Since May 2017, 9,768 returning migrants (as of November 2018) have also begun their reintegration under the project in hopes of starting a new life.