Stories
22 Nov 2022
By:
  • Anta DIA | Facilitatrice

Mansour C.* is a returnee living in southern Senegal.

Our first meeting took place in the field facilitators’ office. He decided to come to IOM premises where he felt very comfortable, in his own words. With a frank smile, he agreed to tell me his story, as he considered that IOM enabled him to succeed in his reintegration. 

Before his departure, Mansour was breeding broiler chicks. He had never thought of leaving his homeland. In his twenties, he regularly had telephone conversations with friends in Spain and Holland. He was eventually influenced by their wonderful impression described through their words, which convinced him that a better life in Europe was possible. The young man decided to use the profits from his business to reach Italy. Despite several months spent crossing West Africa and the Maghreb, he never reached the European continent.

In fact, as soon as Mansour left Senegal, his situation deteriorated: “It was in Mali that we started to encounter difficulties. We were forced to leave one of our companions at the border because he did not have an identity document. When we arrived in Bamako, we slept at the bus station where there were many aggressors.” Mansour was also a victim of imprisonment and torture in Burkina: “There was a place called the Red Snake, where it was very hot. If you didn’t pay, the soldiers would pat you down and if they didn’t find anything on you, they would beat you violently and send you back to the Red Snake... I experienced all these difficulties.”

Depressed by this repeated moral and physical violence, Mansour finally decided to go to Algeria and paid a large sum to a smuggler. On the way, their convoy was attacked by bandits who robbed them. To add insult to injury, he found himself imprisoned once they crossed the Algerian border. The young man was forced to pay 250,000 FCFA in exchange for his freedom. On his release, he worked for two years as a plasterer in Algeria. This job allowed him to send money to his relatives in Senegal.

Despite all the obstacles he encountered, his dream of reaching Italy remained unscathed. He therefore decided to invest his savings to leave for Libya, where he was imprisoned for two months. His relatives, who had no news about him, thought he was dead. In desperation, they contacted Mansour’s friends and learned that he was being held arbitrarily in prison. His family hurriedly collected the money needed to free him from this terrible situation.

After having experienced attacks, scams, threats and prison, Mansour was no longer able to endure so much suffering. The young man took steps to return to Senegal. He was assisted to return under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

Upon arrival in Senegal, Mansour was invited by IOM to a counselling session. This was a decisive moment, as he was able to express himself freely on his journey and talk about his love for poultry farming, which dates back to his childhood: “Poultry farming is my passion. I remember when I was 10 years old, I was rewarded with money at a religious festival. I took this money to buy a local chicken. I started keeping chickens at a young age. I don’t do poultry farming just for fun, it’s my passion.”

Mansour was confronted with mockery. Many people tried to force him to abandon his project, which was supposedly doomed to failure. Unfair and harsh words were spoken about him: “Mansour is a person without ambition. He has just returned from Algeria and can’t think of anything else to do but start a poultry business. He is lazy and would do better to help his father with his business at the market.” Some people even came to show their disapproval: “They deliberately came to the henhouse to belittle me,” said Mansour.

Despite this, Mansour showed self-sacrifice and was particularly courageous. He said with a smile: “I didn’t care what people said to me, because I knew what I really wanted. I was determined to succeed in this field because I already had the experience. Also, my family was very supportive because they knew how much I loved poultry farming.”

With IOM support, Mansour launched his poultry farm within months of his return to Senegal. Mansour also bought an incubator and introduced guinea fowl eggs. This investment is particularly profitable, because after the eggs have hatched, each pair is sold for 5000 FCFA.

Mansour bought an incubator that allows him to sell chicks.

In addition, Mansour is diversifying his sources of income by opening a tableware shop in the central market of Kolda. He also attends various markets in the region with a regular stand. Thanks to his sales skills, he has managed to build up customer loyalty. Assisted by his wife and brother, who manage the chicken coop and the shop respectively, during his weekly trips, Mansour skilfully manages his two activities during the day: “I get up in the morning at 6 a.m. to go to the farm. I clean the troughs and feeders and then fill them to allow the chicks to feed. When I finish, at around 8 a.m., I go to the market to open the shop. I stay there until 1.30 p.m., then I go back to the farm to fill the troughs and feeders again. At 3 p.m. I go back to the market until 5 p.m. At 5.30 p.m., when I get back to the farm, I check if the chicks need anything.”

Today, Mansour has regained confidence in himself and in the future. His various activities provide him with economic stability and personal fulfilment. In addition, he wins the esteem of all those who discouraged him from following his passion and dreams.

* To protect the identity of the persons quoted, pseudonyms are used.

This article was written by Anta DIA, Field Facilitator in Senegal.