Disappointed Iraqi migrants return home with ‘idealized’ expectations of Europe shattered – report

© Marko Djurica
Thousands of Iraqi migrants have become disillusioned by Europe and end up returning to their home country, according to a new report. Facing asylum delays and poor living conditions, they said their idealized expectations have been dwarfed by harsh realities.

Migrants who chose to go back to Iraq said the quality of life in Europe was overrated, according to the report titled “Migration Flows from Iraq to Europe: Reasons Behind Migration” published by the International Organization for Migration on Tuesday. Migrants cited an extremely long asylum application process, poor living conditions and general disappointment with the way of life in Europe as being among the main reasons for their return, IOM said.

“The study, based on interviews in Europe, and with Iraqis who returned home, said returnees reported that life in Europe had been idealized and that the reality was more difficult than expected,” Farhan Haq, deputy UN spokesman, said as quoted by Xinhua news agency.

IOM had assisted with the repatriation of some 9,600 Iraqis last year and through June of this year, the agency reported. However, the actual number could be even higher as many migrants returned home without IOM help.

Before immigrating many Iraqis viewed Europe as a “paradise”, the report stated. However, once they got there, they realized that settling in was not as easy as they had imagined.

“Receiving a residency permit is not as easy as expected. Waiting times are really long,” one of the interviewees said. “Migrants are shocked because life in the country of destination is completely different from their expectations,” said another.

Others complained about being physically or verbally abused by police saying “We were not treated with respect”. Migrants were also dissatisfied with the accommodation they were given while they had to wait for their asylum application form to be processed. The camps were overcrowded and represented a “military base”.

“We expected a home and we were put in a tent with military blankets,” they said.

The study was based on interviews with 86 Iraqi migrants all of whom returned to Iraq after migrating to Europe in 2015. The discussions took place between March and April 2016 in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). All of the participants were enrolled in an IOM program which helped them to return home.

The report also analyzed factors that pushed Iraqis to leave their country in the first place. It found that most left Iraq due to poor security situation, political instability and perceived lack of equality and law enforcement.

When selecting a destination, most Iraqis based their choice on the presence of relatives or friends in a certain country, and on assumptions that they would easily receive a residency permit and reunite with family.

The study is the second phase of a project, the first part of which involved another report which was released in February based on 500 interviews with Iraqi migrants.

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According to IOM, over one million migrants reached European shores in 2015. Being the third largest group of migrants, some 85,000 Iraqis arrived to Greece by sea in the second half of 2015 alone.