The story began when Bertrand M.*, 16 years old and the youngest member of a loving family, decided to emigrate secretly. His family went through distress for several weeks and was deeply worried. Albert, the eldest, could not stay without reacting to his parents’ grief. All the more so as his younger brother suffers from heart and respiratory problems that could become complicated at any moment.

Albert eventually found out that Bertrand had set out to reach Europe via Libya. Despite being a person with a disability, Albert was determined to cross Africa to find and rescue his brother. So the elder brother set off in pursuit of the younger brother, to convince him to return home.

Despite problems related to his disability, Albert travelled through many countries, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Algeria, and Libya. This migration route, known for its harshness, is extremely dangerous for a person with a disability. The young man was twice arbitrarily imprisoned and forced to pay a ransom to regain his freedom.

Albert managed to track down his younger brother, who categorically refused to return to Senegal. As he could not accept to leave the teenager on his own, Albert decided to accompany him at all costs. The two brothers continued their migration route and tried to reach Spain via the Mediterranean Sea in a makeshift boat that capsized a few moments after departure. Miraculously, all the people on board survived.

Following this event, Albert convinced his brother to return home and contacted IOM as advised by a friend. The brothers were supported under the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme.

Back in Senegal, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, they received specific support and were provided with hygiene kits to prevent the COVID-19. IOM referred them to the Senegalese Red Cross to provide them with a supplementary fund of 450,000 FCFA and food kits.

To ensure the sustainability of their resettlement, IOM funded their reintegration project. This support enabled the brothers to set up a business together providing a motorbike transport service. They also started selling and repairing electronic equipment while providing DJ services with a hi-fi system.

Albert was happy to return to his previous job as a repairman. The family man doesn’t count working hours, he starts at around nine o’clock, and it’s not unusual for him to still be at work after 9 p.m. On average, he repairs about ten phones a day and ten computers a week. Certain accessories such as headphones, chargers and USB sticks sell extremely well. Albert is particularly fond of interacting with his many customers. His shop is always busy, and he has even taken on an apprentice who he is training to be a repairman. When he has to go into town to buy spare parts for telephones and computers, Albert leaves the keys to the shop to the apprentice.

The two brothers in their mobile phone and repair business.

Now Albert and Bertrand can provide for their family and their health expenses without difficulty, including Bertrand’s monthly care. The brothers also helped build their parents’ house. Thanks to his activity, Albert has started anew by building a house for his wife and two children.

Albert is particularly happy and feels that he belongs to the community again. Since last year, he has been at the head of the cultural and sports association of his community. Albert now has many plans. His ambition is to buy more hi-fi systems and rent them out every weekend. To meet the growing needs of his customers, Albert also plans to recruit and expand his workshop. His eyes light up when he enthusiastically talks about his dream of opening large telephone accessory shops throughout the region in a few years’ time.

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

This article was written by Moustapha Mendy, Field Facilitator in Senegal.