• Sarah Al Jameel | Communication Officer, IOM Timor-Leste

Timor - Leste - Agustinho Guterres, a 41-year-old Timor Leste native, embarked on a journey with two friends to Europe, fuelled by dreams of better opportunities and a fresh start. 

Agustinho enjoys the white sands of Dili Beach. Photo by Sarah Al Jameel, IOM Timor-Leste, 2024.

Their first destination was Portugal, followed by a legal move to the United Kingdom  Agustinho, motivated by the prospect of finding a job and the chance for a better life, soon faced with the unexpected setback once arrived in the UK in October 2022. 

"After being turned away by the UK officials.  I found myself sinking into a deep despair. The weight of financial burdens and the solitude in an unfamiliar land were battles I faced alone," reflected Agustina Guterres after being forced to return. 

Agustinho enjoys the breeze from the homeland beach while sharing his story with IOM colleagues." Photo by Sarah Al Jameel, IOM Timor-Leste, 2024.

Compelled to return to Portugal, where he had found intermittent short-term opportunities, Agustinho quickly confronted the daunting challenges of immigration regulations and a lack of employment once again. 

"I was so desperate because everything in Portugal requires money, and I was determined to earn enough to live there. I didn’t want to return directly to Timor-Leste with no money and no achievement," Agustina recounted. 

Agustinho decided to explore other avenues for support after his employment attempts failed to bear fruit. While staying at the social service center, he discovered, through friends at the center, assistance available via social services and virtual counseling—a collaborative effort among IOM Portugal, IOM Timor-Leste, and IOM Germany. This support enabled Agustinho to learn more about IOM’s initiatives that aid migrants in returning to their homelands. 

Although Agustinho returned without the financial gains he had envisioned, the reunion with his family in October 2023 marked a new beginning. With the aid of IOM’s reintegration support package, he opened a second-hand clothing shop, invested in his children's education and purchased a motorcycle for goods transportation. 

Agustinho in his second-hand shop for clothing that he established after returning to Timor-Leste. Photo by Sarah Al Jameel, IOM Timor-Leste 2024

"Being with the family is great, even with modest earnings, brings immense joy. This small business offered me a sense of relief and pride in my ability to support my family." 

The Global Virtual Assistance programme managed by IOM Germany in collaboration with IOM Timor-Leste and IOM Portugal, made a significant impact in 2023 by providing crucial virtual counselling to Timorese migrants in Portugal. This programme offered a range of services based on their vulnerability, including reintegration packages. These initiatives support post-migrants in starting over, illustrating the organization's commitment to supporting individuals and saving lives while navigating the complexities of resettlement and integration. 

Returning to the white beaches of Timor-Leste, Agustinho enjoys a walk along the beach. Photo by Sarah Al Jameel, IOM Timor-Leste, 2024.

This story is written by Sarah Al Jameel communication officer, IOM Timor-Leste, 

SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth