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Published 04.04.2019

Ice-cream in the parks of Baghdad

Young Iraqi Mahmud, arrived in Finland as an asylum seeker in 2015. Two years later he got a negative decision on his asylum claim. At the reception center, he was told about a voluntary return program. Mahmud decided to find out about the possibilities of return.

An employee at the Reception Center told him that through the support he could set up a business in his home country. In 2017, the amount of this in-kind support was 1500 euros. At the beginning of 2019, this assistance was increased to 5000 euros for those returning to Iraq.



A bright idea was born in the young asylum seeker’s mind, and he knew what he could to continue his life.



Mahmud had some experience already in selling ice cream. He wanted to take advantage of that experience in setting up a business. Through the funding of the voluntary return programme, he was able to buy an ice cream machine.


The return procedures and other related measures were first taken care of in Finland at the reception center. The information was sent to ETTC before returning to Iraq. Mahmud received the first part of the support in Finland and the rest in his home country, Iraq.



The whole process from start to finish, from Mahmud applied for voluntary return until being in Iraq with his new company, took a couple of months. In general, the process can take from one month to a few months.



Since then, Mahmud’s ice cream has brought many smiles to the families in the parks under the burning sun of Baghdad.



During Mahmud’s return, the Finnish Immigration Service cooperated with ETTC and ERRIN. ETTC offers return and reintegration services as well as consultations to returnees from European countries to Iraq. ERRIN is the European Return and Reintegration Network; a grouping of immigration authorities from different European countries that facilitates cooperation with organisations involved in return.



Many returnees were interviewed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The stories of those who have returned have been mostly positive as they have been able to continue their lives home in a supported manner.



Read more: Changes to support for assisted voluntary return, in-kind assistance rises

Watch: Stories of Return